The Indian Ocean arms race

The ocean everybody wants a piece of.

What’s behind the Indian Ocean’s naval arms race?

Vijay Sakhuja

The Indian Ocean is seeing a significant, high-tech naval buildup. In the past five years, India, Pakistan, Iran, South Africa, Indonesia and Australia have all enhanced their naval capabilities, despite the minimum risk of imminent conflict. At the same time, these powers are diplomatically supporting multilateral institutions such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association and the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium.

It is fair to say that a stable balance of naval power exists in the Indian Ocean, despite the efforts of countries outside the region to acquire increased naval access, including the construction of dual-use facilities for civilian and naval operations. Examples include U.S. and U.K. naval bases in Bahrain, a French base in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, and Chinese naval outposts at Gwadar, Pakistan, and Hambantota, Sri Lanka.

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