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Ganesh Pote asked: What is the geo-political significance of the Indian Ocean?

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  • S.S. Parmar replies: The geo-political significance of the Indian Ocean stems from the fact that it is a centre piece in the wider Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The combination of economic growth and slowdown, military expansion, increasing demand for natural resources, demographics combined with the geo-political situation, increased presence of nuclear capable actors and variances in regional structures of governance, highlights the geo-political significance of this area.

    Major points that merit attention are: -

    • The Indian Ocean is third largest water body of the world that has vital sea lanes of communication crisscrossing it and which feeds Asia’s largest economies. Around 80 per cent of the world’s seaborne oil trade passes through the choke points of this ocean and therefore it literally connects the east to the west.
    • The varying system of governance in the area determines the outline of the regional security architecture. The relations between nations both intra and extra regional shapes the complex matrix that define the overall architecture. Changes in political thought processes and any alteration in relations could alter the security scenario of the region.
    • There has been a gradual to an accelerated expansion of maritime forces and their capabilities in the region. The growing presence of extra regional powers and nuclear capable nations has further altered the existing security framework. This is affecting the existing military balance and the impending imbalance could create a new architecture that could affect the prevailing security scenario.
    • The economic upsurge of some nations and stagnation/slowdown of others is throwing up challenges that could affect the regional and international markets. The lack of intra-regional trade as compared to the extra-regional trade has limited the relations between nations in the region. Added to it is the growing competition and race for exploiting available natural resources, which could bring in new challenges to the region in times to come.

    Posted on 13 August 2012