A vast expanse that holds a fifth of the water on the Earth’s surface, the Indian Ocean has long been a crossroads for merchants, mariners, and navies. The ocean is critical to the geopolitical and economic fortunes of both its littoral states and outside powers. As they have for centuries, ships squeeze through its narrow straits and sail into its deep waters, plying busy trade routes that span the globe from Africa to the Middle East, Asia, and Australia.

Today, as a space where the interests of the world’s great powers intersect, the Indian Ocean is becoming ever more important. It is a fulcrum not only of strategic competition between nations but also of an array of valuable economic and development opportunities. Yet there are few dedicated Indian Ocean programs anywhere in the world. The Carnegie Asia Program aims to rectify this gap and build a hub for some of the world’s best research on the Indian Ocean and its island states and territories.

Islands have always played critical roles for great powers jostling for influence on the world stage. Small island nations in the Indo-Pacific are no different. Today, China, the United States, and other regional powers have jockeyed for favor from these island states in the Indian Ocean region. Yet often lost in the shuffle of great power politics are the interests of the island nations themselves.

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