Image Courtesy: The Japan Times
The world is changing and the global political scenario is shifting its centre of gravity from the west to the east; from the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific. The war on terror by the United States of America in Afghanistan ended abruptly, giving power back to those they were fighting against. The world is witnessing several bilateral and multilateral groupings in this region, such as the AUKUS in the Indian Ocean region targeting specific states like China. After almost 2 decades of the war against terror, the world is returning to a situation of state-centric conflicts.
As the USA left Afghanistan, new regional players like China, India, Russia, Pakistan, etc., have taken their individual initiatives to safeguard their national interests as well as collective interests to stabilize the region with the underlying understanding that the USA is withdrawing its commitments as a global policing force. At the same time, India and China are getting ready for future confrontations on their borders and in the South Asian region to have better control of the region. For China, the motive is to control the Indian Ocean region, but for India, it is the protection of its sovereignty and its regional security in the region. The Chinese strategy to control the region is to receive support from Pakistan through various means. In these regional issues, Russia often plays the role of a balancer – partly because of its legacy as a great power and a major global balancer. For Russia, China is an ally in its International political ambitions. In the case of India, Russia – being a pragmatic player sees India as a potential ally, as India is known for its silence and non-alliance in international conflicts thus retaining its diplomatic flexibility and not bandwagoning.
The recent developments in international politics should be taken into consideration while analyzing this shift. The Kabul withdrawal, the Chinese strategy of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the formulation of AUKUS and Quad can be seen as the different aspects of this shift. As this shift can bring a complete change in the power structure not only in the east but internationally, the American notion of leading the world with its liberal ideas will see a threat from the newly formed power structure in the eastern hemisphere, specifically in Asia. Emerging powers like India, Pakistan along with world powers like China and Russia will try to engage and formulate a new policy in this evolving world order.
In the current world scenario, the Indian Ocean region is of great interest to many nations around the world. The interest shown by countries like France and other European counterparts should be taken into consideration while analyzing this change in the political dynamics. At the very same time, the increased interest of Russia to engage in the security of the Indian Ocean Region is a development that should be studied in depth.
The increased interests in the region also bring about various kinds of conflicts with it. The Indian interest to control the region especially the Bay of Bengal region and the Arabian Sea has been countered by China by developing a port in Gwadar in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan and influencing Bangladesh to get influence on the Chittagong and Mongla ports. This act of China is not only to contain the Indian agenda in the Ocean region but also to gain control of the region for the future. This will lead to the discussion of why the Indian Ocean region is important in the international politico-economic and geo-strategic landscape. The Indian Ocean region is seen as a door to the strait of Malacca and the Persian Gulf and hence controlling this region is of utmost importance for various players for their geopolitical interests.
(Davis Vavachan is pursuing his M.A International Relations (Multilateral Diplomacy) from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) and research intern at the Chennai Centre for China Studies (C3S). His areas of interest include Peace and Conflict Resolution and Indo-Pacific Geo-politics. The views expressed are personal and do not reflect the views of C3S.)