China Shakes Up the Maritime Balance in the Indian Ocean

The author is with the King’s College, London, UK.
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  • May 2012

    The Indian Ocean has long been a hub of great power rivalry and the struggle for its domination has been a perennial feature of global politics. It is the third largest of the world's five oceans and touches Asia in the north, Africa in the west, Indo-China in the east, and Antarctica in the south. Home to four critical access waterways—the Suez Canal, Bab-el Mandeb, the Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca—the Indian Ocean connects the Middle East, Africa and East Asia with Europe and the Americas. Given its crucial geographical role, major powers have long vied with each other for its control though it was only in the 19th century that Great Britain was able to enjoy an overwhelming dominance in the region. With the decline in Britain's relative power and the emergence of two superpowers during the Cold War, the Indian Ocean region became another arena where the US and the former Soviet Union struggled to expand their power and influence. The US, however, has remained the most significant player in the region for the last several years.