13 October 2011

One Ocean, Two Shades: Perceptions about the Indian Ocean

/luce.nt/ was established in 2010 as a forum to advance thinking and to promote dialogue in an online symposium for policy makers, scholars, and practitioners within the international security community “on all questions relating to war and to statesmanship connected with war, or the prevention of war.” The thoughts and opinions expressed in this online publication are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the U.S. government, the U.S. Navy Department, or the U.S. Naval War College.

Capt. Sameer Saxena, Indian Navy,One Ocean, Two Shades: Perceptions about the Indian Ocean,” /luce.nt/: A Journal of National Security Studies (Fall 2011).

The Indian Ocean and India itself and how the United States views this area of the world is discussed in light of history, India’s recent growth and influence in the region as well as globally, and the opportunities presented through an adjustment to the U.S. lens. The current focus is on China. Should it really be on India? The importance of regional actors working in coordination with the support of extra-regional actors and methods to move in that direction are discussed. …

A historical preview provides an understanding of past challenges and the present opportunity for a paradigm shift. A study of the economic and geopolitical differences explains the inertia against such a shift, while a reflection of the commonality of national interests demonstrates the imperatives to overcome such inertia. Three instances of divergent policy perspectives are examined so as to appreciate differences and to identify a way ahead. …

Indo – US bilateral relations have through recent strategic engagement developed mutual trust which renders historical differences of security paradigms irrelevant. India has traditionally had an independent foreign policy yet by virtue of its democratic governance and adherence to international norms, there are considerable commonalities of national interests and an increasing convergence of security objectives. Inadequate appreciation of differences in perspectives has resulted in policy differences that have inhibited synergy in the maritime domain. It is imperative that the leadership of both nations capitalize on mutual capabilities, respective geopolitical strengths, and the mutual reservoir of trust. The United States has been the guardian of the global commons during the latter part of the 20th century. In an environment of state and non-state actors seeking anti access capabilities, the United States must seek new partnerships to ensure freedom in the global commons. The Indian Ocean Region is an area of confluence of dangers: WMD proliferation, radical terrorism, unstable states, piracy and illicit activities. These demand focused attention and synergy of efforts. Failure to do so could result in a catastrophe such as an al-Qaida WMD attack which could be either in New York or New Delhi. Neither is improbable nor inevitable. Cooperative engagement alone can minimize risks.