International Relations

The IOR’s Small Island Developing States

The Indian Ocean Region (IOR), which includes crucial Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC) and significant choke points, functions as a linking centre for international trade in oil and commodities.

Large states with strong interests in the region have made the IOR a fundamental component of their geostrategic ambitions. As a result, Western Indian Ocean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) including the Maldives, Madagascar, Comoros, Mauritius, and Seychelles are being drawn into the conflict between the great powers.

Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

  • 38 UN Member States and 20 Non-UN Members/Associate Members of United Nations regional commissions make up the distinct group known as Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which is particularly vulnerable on the social, economic, and environmental fronts.
  • The Caribbean, Pacific, Atlantic, Indian Ocean, and South China Sea are the three geographical areas in which SIDS are situated (AIS)
  • At the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, SIDS were acknowledged as a particular case for both their environment and development.

Importance of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of IOR

  • The geographic placement of SIDS islands is strategically significant ever since the development of the Indo-Pacific architecture.
  • Offers simple access and a base for resupply: The islands are adjacent to significant SLOCs, offer simple access to the choke points, and can be used as a base for resource replenishment by maritime powers conducting surveillance in the area.
  • Engagements increase maritime expanse: To increase their influence in this maritime expanse, the major powers have begun engaging with the islands on a larger scale.

Challenges faced by SIDS

  • Multiple difficulties: The SIDS, by virtue of their small populations, distant locations, fragile ecosystems, and constrained resources and capacities, suffer numerous difficulties. The majority of SIDS are categorised as middle-income states, while some, like Comoros, are Least Developed States (LDCs).
  • The economy of these states are not diverse and are largely dependent on a few industries, such as tourism and fishing.
  • Natural disaster losses and climate change: Their problems are made worse by climate change, which puts further strain on their fragile economies. Two-thirds of the states that experience the biggest proportional losses from natural disasters (1% to 9% of GDP annually) are SIDS.
  • Aside from the possibility of low-lying islands submerging in the future, rising sea levels have a direct effect on the SIDS’s economic sectors. For instance, saltwater intrusion degrades agricultural land quality and has an impact on freshwater supplies.
  • Significantly reliant on food imports: Given that 50% of SIDS import more than 80% of their food, the SIDS are already significantly reliant on food imports. Their reliance on food imports will expand if food output continues to decline. For SIDS, attaining self-sufficiency is a distant goal.
  • Fishing, a significant economic contributor, is challenged by the loss of EEZ: A significant portion of the states’ income comes from fish exports. The loss of Exclusive Economic Zones resulting from shifting baselines and Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing are difficulties facing the fishing industry.
  • Additionally, the marine biomass in the resource-rich areas of SIDS is significantly impacted by rising sea temperatures.
  • Nearly 50% of the GDP of SIDS, like as the Maldives and Seychelles, is derived from the tourism sector, which was negatively impacted by the pandemic.

Way ahead

  • The prominent and larger powers without the SIDS have typically made choices about regional security.
  • To force the larger countries to take notice of their security concerns and interests, the SIDS of the IOR can take advantage of their strategic position.
  • Stronger regional alliances and groupings are urgently needed, including major involvement from SIDS, so that other actors do not minimise or disregard their concerns and interests.


The SIDS have been arguing in favour of support and aid in various international fora in order to deal with their problems with resources, development, climate change, and most importantly, survival. The SIDS must be seen as significant stakeholders in the area rather than just as puppets in the geopolitical game. The primary mentality, policy, and method change required for a secure and stable region is this one.

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