Indian Ocean is re-emerging in strategic significance
LONDON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–As the strategic significance of the Indian Ocean increases, major countries are expanding their military presence at sea in the region. According to IHS Markit (Nasdaq: INFO), a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions, the number of naval visits to the Indian Ocean increased at a compound annual growth rate of 18.6 percent from 2011 to 2015 and their visits for the first nine months of this year already topped the 2015 figure. Navies of the Indian Ocean region are also steadily increasing their naval procurement budgets from around $8.5 billion in 2011 to $12 billion in 2016.
“The Indian Ocean is re-emerging in strategic significance, not just due to the previous risk of piracy but also due the world’s naval superpowers seeing the chance to fill a strategic void at sea in the region”
“The Indian Ocean is re-emerging in strategic significance, not just due to the previous risk of piracy but also due the world’s naval superpowers seeing the chance to fill a strategic void at sea in the region,” said Dr. Lee Willett, head of the Naval Desk at IHS Jane’s.
Three of the world’s most important maritime choke points — the Bab-el-Mandeb, Hormuz and Malacca straits — sit at key access point around the Indian Ocean and are the bottlenecks through which maritime trade flows into and out of the Indian Ocean. Dozens of millions of barrels of oil transit the Indian Ocean region each day.
While major Western naval powers continue to sustain a presence in the Indian Ocean, China also is expanding its naval presence there to support its military and economic aims. With an eye on China, India has actively grown its naval capability in what it sees as its own waters, so as to provide broad coverage and effective operations on both sides of the Indian subcontinent.
“Dominance in the Indian Ocean translates in a way to dominance in Asia, because of the primary maritime trade routes and energy trade,” said Caron Natasha Tauro, South Asia analyst for IHS Jane’s. “This boosted competition between India, which sees the sea as its backyard, and China, which has potential to enlarge its influence with the One Belt, One Road project and the Maritime Silk Road initiative.”
Chinese naval deployments to the Indian Ocean decreased in 2015 as China focused on other areas, such as the South China Sea. However, since 2016, China has re-emphasized its deployments here, specifically to protect its commercial interests and possibly to build relations with states like Pakistan and Bangladesh.
According to IHS Jane’s Markets Forecasts, total spending on the various classes of warships by selected countries in the Indian Ocean region — namely India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh — has shown a strong upward trend since 2009. Particularly from 2013 to 2016, the production value increased by more than 40 percent. For the out-years, the most notable programs in terms of projected investment would be for attack submarines, destroyers, frigates and mine warfare vessels.
“Smaller navies like Bangladesh and Pakistan are also subject to the dynamics of increased competition between China and India in the Indian Ocean region, and are projected to gradually increase their naval spending from 2017 onwards,” said Michele Capeleto, naval analyst at IHS Jane’s.
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