International Relations

All eyes are now focused on the Indian Ocean region

  • Since October 2023, the Indian government’s focus has changed from the Indo-Pacific to the Indian Ocean, diverting attention away from developing the Quad Alliance.
  • Both the Western Indian Ocean and the Northern Indian Ocean are now active geographies. 

What are the reasons behind this Policy Shift?

  • Maldives and China- Under President Mohamed Muizzu, the Maldives is increasing ties with China, which could strain relations with India.
  • Sri Lanka and India- Sri Lanka has demonstrated sensitivity to India’s security concerns by imposing a prohibition on foreign research ships, especially Chinese ones, entering its ports.
  • India-Mauritius Cooperation– India’s SAGAR policy resulted in inaugurating infrastructure in the Agaléga Islands, increasing Mauritius’s competence to manage its Extended Economic Zone.
  • Geopolitical Dynamics- The Western and Northern Indian Ocean regions are experiencing heightened activity, including wars and disruptions to marine trade routes.
  • For example, in the Western Indian Ocean, the continuous conflict between Israel and Hamas has worsened, resulting in Houthi rebel attacks on international commerce.
  • China’s Naval Expansion- China intends to exert regional dominance by increasing its naval footprint and fostering partnerships with countries under the string of pearls policy, such as the Maldives.
  • India-China Strategic Competition- India and China are engaged in strategic competition, as evidenced by China’s efforts to create a hostile environment for India’s security and its pursuit of naval bases in vital places.

Suggestive measures:

  • Shift in Focus to the Indian Ocean: India should prioritise the Indian Ocean region above the Indo-Pacific, and communicate this clearly to its strategic allies.
  • Evaluation of Existing Mechanisms: The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the Colombo Security Conclave (CSC) require a critical audit due to alleged underperformance and ineffectiveness.
  • Proposal for a New Mechanism: India could explore campaigning for the establishment of a new organisation tasked with strengthening maritime security and developing the Blue Economy in the Indian Ocean region.
    • This suggested organisation might encompass India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Comoros, and Madagascar.
    • The Maldives may be able to keep its ninth seat if it follows a sound programme. This organisation can be called the ‘Indian Ocean Cooperation Organisation’. 
  • India should dedicate more budgetary resources to strengthen its Navy further, with the goal of making it the third or fourth most powerful navy in the world, in keeping with the country’s objective to become the world’s third-largest economy.


Prioritising strategic relationships, evaluating existing procedures, advocating for new collaborative projects, and improving naval capabilities are all necessary for India’s policy pivot towards the Indian Ocean region to ensure regional security and boost economic success. 


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