Indian Ocean Region

Indian Ocean Region

This article deals with ‘Indian Ocean Region.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

What is Indian Ocean Region (IOR)

  • Region containing and surrounding the Indian Ocean is known as Indian Ocean Region
  • Indian Ocean Region    has  51  coastal and landlocked states  . Hence , it is a vast region.

Reasons behind increased importance of Indian Ocean

  • Indian Ocean has become life line of world trade (& has been so since time immemorial) . Indian Ocean is important for commerce as
    • 2/3 rd of world oil shipments passes through Indian Ocean 
    • 1/3 rd of bulk cargo  passes through Indian Ocean
    • It hosts  nearly 40% of world’s population
  • Indian  Ocean  has  world’s  most  important  choke  points,  notably  Straits  of  Hormuz, Malacca  and  Bab  el  Mandeb. As these  choke points are   important for global  trade, number of extra-regional states  maintain  a naval  presence in Indian  Ocean.
    • US  5th  Fleet   in Bahrain & uses island of Diego Garcia as air-naval base  . 
    • France  has naval  bases  in  Djibouti,  Reunion,  and Abu Dhabi.
  • Presently, China’s  aggressive  soft  power  diplomacy and Maritime Silk Road (MSR) Policy  has  been the  most  important  element in  shaping  the  Indian  Ocean  strategic  environment.

Changed attitude of India towards  Indian Ocean

  • IOR is centre stage of 21st century politics  & India stands geographically right in the middle . South Africa , Iran , Indonesia & Australia are also part of Indian ocean RIM family but none has centrality & attraction like that of India
  • India is  positioning itself as the “net security provider” in the broader Indian Ocean region 

Importance of IOR for India

  • Geostrategic Reason
    • India situated right in the middle of Indian Ocean
    • Important to secure it to protect Indian ships from piracy, stop human trafficking and drug smuggling
    • 90% of Indian trade passes through it , it is important to protect our Sea Lines of Commerce
    • Energy Security : Most of our oil supplies come from Indian Oceam Rim countries
    • Check Choke Points important for Indian trade
  • Protection of assets and islands
    • Islands : Andaman and Nicobar + Lakshadweep
    • Assets : Like Bombay High
  • Economic : It is source of resources like
    • fishing and aquaculture
    • Deep sea mineral exploration
    • Petroleum reserves like Bombay High
  • Cultural
    • India has cultural relations with IOR countries dating back centuries
    • India has been centre stage of Indian Ocean trade corroborated by texts like Periplus Maris Erytharei, Jataka Stories, Sangam Poetry etc
  • Diaspora
    • Large Indian disaspora is living in Indian Ocean Rim Countries and Small Island Nations like Mauritius, Maldives, South Africa etc

Chinese Threat & String of Pearls

China’s Malacca Dilemma

  • 360 ships /day pass through Strait of Malacca
  • If there is any blockade by human or any natural disaster , it will cause problems to China because China’s 80 % of oil & gas imports & almost 60% exports pass through this region
  • Located right on the Malacca Strait is Singapore  . Singapore hosts huge US naval base   . To counter Malacca Dilemma, China has opted to go for ambitious String of Pearls strategy
  • Andaman & Nicobar Islands are situated very near to Malacca and they can be used to choke the Straits .
Indian Ocean Region
Malacca Dilemma of China

String Of Pearls

  • Theory that China is trying to increase its naval presence in Indian Ocean and counter India by surrounding it
  • It is developing string of ports around India for this purpose
Kyaukpyu  Myanmar
Chittagong Bangladesh
Hambantota Srilanka
Gwadar Pakistan
Djibouti First Chinese Overseas Military Base  (overlooks Bab el Mandeb)
Indo-China Relations
String of Pearls

Indian Steps + Iron Curtain

  • To Counter String of Pearls , India is also making ports 
A&N Islands Can act as Iron choke to Malacca
– Malacca strait  is overlooked by A&N islands 
– India has established an air naval station here called Baaz  
Chabahar Port India is developing Chabahar port in Iran  
Duqm port Feb 2018 : On Modi’s Oman visit , India signed agreement to get military and logistics support  to Duqm Port  
Seychelles Leased Assumption Islands from Seychelles     + $ 100-million credit  for augmenting defense capabilities  + Given 2 Dornier Aircrafts for reconnaissance  
Myanmar Sittwe  
Mauritius Develop infrastructure on Agalega Island in Mauritius.  
Srilanka Developing Kakesuthai & Triconmalee  port  
France India and France,  signed the “reciprocal logistics support” agreement as part of which warships of both the nations would have access to each other’s naval bases. 
  • Making Alliances : Apart from that , India is trying to contain China  through following ways
    • Making alliance with Vietnam ( Vietnam too had issues with China in South China sea )
    • Malabar practice with US & Japan  (latest 2018 : Guam)
  • Military Modernisation
    • Agni, Sukhoi, Nuclear submarines , Aircraft Carrier-Vikramaditya . They are not meant for Pakistan but to fight against powerful nation like China
  • Iron Curtain Policy  to counter Chinese String of pearls
    • Term Given by naval analyst Zang Ming 
    • Andamaan &Nicobar islands can be used as metal chain to block Chinese access to Strait of Malacca
    • Japan is also helping India to develop Andaman and Nicobar
  • Project Mausam
    • Launched in June 2014
    • It is a Ministry of Culture project
    • Aim :
      • Project tries to see how the monsoon winds helped maritime trade  historically between  Indian Ocean-connected countries.
      • How winds influenced local economies, scientific quests, modern statecraft, religion,politics and cultural identity.
  • Cotton Route & Spice Route
    • Cotton Routeto strengthen economic ties between countries in the Indian Ocean rim.
    • Spice Route =>  revival of old links between 31 countries in Asia and Europe with India, particularly spice-rich Kerala .


Leave a Comment