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Navigating Complex Geopolitical Waters: India's Role in the Indian Ocean Region

  • Category
    International Relations
  • Published
    20th Jan, 2024


The recent attacks in the red sea in particular and the heating up of security scenario in the Indian Ocean region in general have raised stakes in this region for India.


  • The evolving geopolitical landscape in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) has become a focal point of global attention. Developments in the Western Indian Ocean, presents multifaceted challenges involving nations such as Israel, Iran, Yemen, and the emergence of China.
  • India plays a pivotal role in ensuring maritime security by strategically guarding critical sea routes, conducting joint naval exercises, and contributing to regional stability. Its naval capabilities and cooperation with neighboring countries contribute to safeguarding vital maritime interests and countering security threats in the Indian Ocean region.
  • The regions challenges are characterized by a complex mixture of interconnected challenges of religion, economics, politics, and the environment shaping the IOR in the 21st century.
  • The ceaseless currents of historical change are highlighted as integral elements in defining the geopolitical landscape.

Analysis- The immediate triggers

  • Urgent need for a comprehensive analysis as the Western Indian Ocean witnesses the Israel-Hamas conflict, Iran's covert involvement through Hezbollah, and reactionary measures by Houthis in Yemen.
  • The indiscriminate targeting of merchant ships in the Red Sea adds complexity, jeopardizing innocent passage and freedom of navigation.

India's Strategic Deployment

  • In the rapidly evolving situation, India, preferred security partner in the region was swift enough to deploy its warships across the Arabian Sea to secure vital trade routes.
  • This cements India's commitment to protecting global commons, with a significant naval presence in the region. Also reinforces its rising power status.

Diplomatic Dilemmas

  • Close co-operation with other likeminded nations like US, UK etc, yet independently maintaining its neutral posture. (US carried out strikes against Houthis)
  • India's strong ties with both Saudi Arabia and Iran pose challenges, making armed strikes on Houthis a delicate diplomatic matter.
  • External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar's diplomatic efforts, including his visit to Iran, are highlighted as crucial in navigating these challenges.

Maritime Security Challenges

  • Traditional Challenges like piracy are shifting and evoling.
  • China’s presence and selective targeting of non China bound vessels have emerged as security challenge.
  • Increased Chinese assertiveness in IOR with permanent presence of PLA-Navy.

Geopolitical Challenges in Maldives

  • The presidential election in the Maldives introduces new challenges, with the newly elected president strengthening ties with China.
  • The possibility of China influencing the Maldivian military and increasing Salafi activities raises concerns for India's regional stability.

Need to Revisit Global Policies

  • The article suggests a reevaluation of global policies, particularly in the context of the Ukraine-Russia conflict and Hamas –Israel conflict, as it relates to the Red Sea Houthi challenge.
  • The arrival of the PLA Navy and its engagement with the Maldivian presidency adds complexity to the geopolitical landscape, necessitating a nuanced approach.

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