Strategic interests leading to a strategic
convergence in the new global power structure


Participants of the Research Conference of the International Conference on Regional Security of Indian Ocean,

The Center for South Asian Studies at Fudan University, under the leadership of Professor Zhang Jiadong conducted the second annual academic conference on "The International Conference on Regional Security of Indian Ocean" recently. Three sessions focused on "Interaction between Major Powers in the Indian Ocean", "Perspectives on the Regional Security Situation in the Indian Ocean from Middle Powers and Small Powers", and "China`s Role in the Indian Ocean in the context of one belt and one road initiative".

The conference was conducted with the participation of scholars and subject matter experts from China, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. On an invitation of the Fudan University the Pathfinder Foundation non-profit, non-partisan research and advocacy think-tank which has played a direct and catalytic role in promoting economic policy reforms, participated this academic conference represented Admiral Dr. Jayanath Colombage, Director, Center for Indo Lanka initiative.

Admiral Dr. Colombage presented the keynote address titled "Interaction between Major Powers in the Indian Ocean". He named the Indian Ocean as the emerging center of gravity of the world maritime trade and also an area of contest for power and influence and stressed upon the fact that rise of China as a global economic power and People Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) enhanced presence in the Indian Ocean has drawn the attention of major powers such as USA, Japan, Australia in addition to India. This strategic interest has led to a strategic convergence of USA, India and Japan on one side to counter growing influence of China. This contest has given rise to an undeclared ‘maritime Cold war’ in the Indian Ocean. Admiral further explained that the Bay of Bengal region is reasonably calm and devoid of state vs state tension in comparison to the Western Indian Ocean, which is witnessing failing states, lack of law and order, nuclear rivalry and mistrust despite the fact that most of the developed and developing countries are dependent of energy produced and transported across it. Therefore, the strategic importance of the western Indian ocean is equally high. The Bay of Bengal community through BIMSTEC with the support of Japan and USA is moving ahead nearly after twenty years in existence. BIMSTEC is now even discussing security as part of its agenda. Admiral went on to say that there are many initiatives taking place in the Indian Ocean to enhance maritime connectivity and all countries should benefit from these. These initiatives should not compete against one another and force the smaller, less-developed countries to choose between. That will lead to a predicament for smaller states and hamper their economic growth. Threats posed by the non-state actors also creating maritime security concerns in this ocean and possibly will impact the freedom of maritime commerce. The Indian Ocean is a global common and the center of gravity of global economy and hence the freedom and a rule based maritime order are of utmost importance. Peaceful; resolution of outstanding disputes is a must for this stability of this ocean and ‘a new Indian Ocean Order’, where all states have equal status and all committing to maintain the good order at sea is necessary for the development of Indian Ocean countries.

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