Connecting the World to the IOR.
You know, the Indo of the Indo-Pacific
You know, the Indo of the Indo-Pacific
This is our last IOR Bulletin until fall 2021. It's been a great first few runs. We have two great contributions from LTG Wolff and ADM Shekhar Sinha, as guest writers, on observations and trends regarding the Indian Ocean Region.
As the U.S. completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the land-locked Central Asian country may become a critical node of competition shaping the contours of the larger Indian Ocean Region and even larger Indo-Pacific security environment. Basically, America may think it is leaving Afghanistan, but Afghanistan may not be done with America.
Afghanistan is not the only land centric issue that will impact the security and economic environment of the Indian Ocean Region. In this release, we learn more about the need for India to seriously balance its border conflict with China in a manner that does not create strategic gaps in the maritime environment.
Outside the head-line grabbing activities, there is just a lot going on around the region. From Kenyan concerns about plastic in the Indian Ocean to the attempted assassination of the former Maldivian President, the region continues to be quite dynamic. Finally, while the China-US-India competition tends to draw our attention to the eastern Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, let us not forget the Red Sea (Egypt and Ethiopia will be interesting to watch) and East Africa, especially the development of military deployments to Mozambique by African countries to secure a critical Indian Ocean oriented province from ISIS affiliated extremists.
Hope you enjoy the read below, and we'll se you back in fall 2021!
Photo By: Erasmus Kamugisha (Wikimedia); pictured at Bagamoyo, Tanzania
There is a lot to say about India in this edition.
After what happened in the Suez, we decided to take a quick look at the region's chokepoints.
Our big find was the amount of data that is traveling in and near these chokepoints. We are used to discussing the old 20th century facts about these areas' importance to shipping. No doubt those ships still matter quite a bit, but we shouldn't loose sight of the evolving digital architecture that these chokepoints support for the region and the world.
The other point, well-known but worth mentioning, is how very small these chokepoints are, in some cases this is both in width and depth. In other words, a lot of stuff has to go through some pretty tight spaces.
The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) matters a great deal to the United States. Robert D. Kaplan said as much a decade ago with his book “Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power.” Spanning from East Africa and the Middle East to South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Australia, the IOR is the connective fabric, via sea lines of communication and telecommunications fiber optic submarine cables, linking the economies of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Asia, and Australia. It is also a priority route and theater for U.S. military global power projection capability and capacity. Absent an articulate strategy ruthlessly executed, the United States risks becoming an afterthought in the Indian Ocean, seceding half of the Indo-Pacific to China, which seeks to exert more economic and military presence in the IOR.
Welcome to the first edition of the quarterly Indian Ocean Region Bulletin (IOR Bulletin). We are greatly appreciative to everyone who provided content, proposals, and questions for the community.
We have a wide and diverse set of topics for your preview this quarter. Some highlights:
1. Indian Ocean Island States -- they might be small, but they may be the key to strategic success on a range of issues impacting the region and the globe.
2. Environmental Well-Being -- Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib has a call out to form a working group focused on Gulf states environmental emergency response. We also have a question from Commodore C. Uday Bhaskar on the environmental impact of COVID-19 waste on the region's seas. Lots of additional discussion on environment issues and development across the region. Lots to unpack here, and you guessed it -- those island states may afford both lessons and issues to consider for those exploring environmental issues across the region or their own sub-regions.
3. China, India, the U.S., and QUAD -- Surprise! They all make a showing here. Some interesting discussions on geostrategic dynamics off the coast of East Africa, particularly the southern portion, and how the recent past in the Horn may be a projection of what is to come in the southern portion of East Africa. Let's also not forget the Bay of Bengal, as it is increasingly coming back to the forefront of the region (and globe's?) strategic awareness. Some interesting discussions on India's third aircraft carrier and economic policies provide some good grist to contemplate India's role in the region going forward (made even more interesting by the recent announcement of the new Indian Maritime Theater Command).
4. Provocative Guests -- We asked some members of the community to provide brief, written perspectives on the future of the region. Perhaps all is not well?
5. IOR Bulletin -- Of course we we're going to give our two-cents! We reflect on Robert Kaplan's "Monsoon" as it hits its 10 year anniversary; provide thoughts on civil-society information sharing, using the Red Sea as a brief study; and offer our thoughts for the Biden Administration as it considers the role of the region in its strategic calculus.