Changing Strategic Dynamics of Indian Ocean Island States and Dependencies : Implications for India's Security Architecture

Appel à communication
Date limite de réponse : 30/08/2016

In recent years small islands and associated marine spaces in the different ocean regions have assumed considerable strategic significance. Once considered as almost empty spaces—supporting few human activities concerning mainly inter-continental commercial maritime routes—the small islands and the marine spaces have since become territory by their own merit.

This on-going process, described as the “territorialisation of the seas”, has brought into fore the small island states on the world map, seeking a change of gaze from both the academic and the policy-planning community. Admittedly, for more than one consideration the Indian Ocean is a good laboratory for analysing the global changes at stake concerning issues of marine spaces and small island states.  For one, the political profile of small islands in the Indian Ocean is becoming increasingly complex and diverse. Not only has the number of the island states increased since the onset of the decolonization process (the latest being Timor-Leste on the Eastern margin of the Indian Ocean), some have been fragmented for geostrategic and other considerations—(Chagos Islands got detached from Mauritius by the UK, for instance, to accommodate the Diego Garcia US base). In others, the authority/sovereignty over the island states had even changed hands say, when Britain transferred Christmas Island and Cocos-Keeling Islands to Australia.  Whereas in other instances—such as Réunion Island and Mayotte, départements of France—they continue to remain as overseas territories as against in some other instances marine boundaries are still challenged leading to festering bi-lateral relations between countries—e.g. India-Sri Lanka dispute over Kachchativu.

The existing diversities together with the active and heightened engagement of a number of outside powers—including importantly China in recent years—in the political-economic dynamics of these island states and their associated marine spaces has no doubt ushered in a new phase in the power politics in the region.

For certain, these developments have underlined not only the urgent need for India to recast its security architecture in the Indian Ocean but also rehash/refurbish its policy overtures towards the island states of the region. 

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