21 October 2013

Diego Garcia: Anchoring America’s Future Presence in the Indo-Pacific

Andrew Erickson, Walter Ladwig, and Justin Mikolay, Diego Garcia: Anchoring America’s Future Presence in the Indo-Pacific,” Harvard Asia Quarterly 15.2 (Summer 2013): 20-28.

Issue Theme: “Asia’s Security Future—National Strategies and Regional Institutions”

Systemic shifts are reorienting the world’s economic center of gravity to the Indo-Pacific. The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is emerging as a strategic zone of particular importance, one with tremendous economic potential but significant security challenges. Still the sole superpower, the US has a unique role to play in securing and maintaining the international system—including in the IOR—but requires a reliable network of overseas bases to do so, in a region that is not part of its traditional sphere of influence. The British island of Diego Garcia in the center of the Indian Ocean offers unique capabilities in this regard, and is therefore being further developed by the US military as a regional hub. Meanwhile, India and China are strengthening their presence in the IOR, without challenging US influence. India, which logically views the Indian Ocean as its geostrategic backyard, increasingly views American presence as a positive hedge against China. On the other hand, China’s interests and presence in the IOR are increasing, but enduring challenges closer to home are likely to limit the rate and extent of its transition to IOR power. While facing a changing world in which power diffusion increases the relative influence of such developing nations as China and India, the US is poised to retain a significant role as the foremost underwriter of security and systemic functions in the increasingly vital IOR. Central to such efforts is access to military facilities, with Diego Garcia set to play a disproportionately important role. …