As the world enters 2014, many eyes will be focused on the Indian Ocean, which covers a vast area stretching from the coasts of East Africa in the west, to Malaysia and Australia in the east, to South Africa in the south. Its broader territory runs from the waters of the Arabian Gulf to the South China Sea, covers 70 million sqkm, or 20 per cent of the world’s water surface, hosts one-third of the world’s population, one-quarter of landmass, three-quarters of global oil reserves, iron and tin, and over 70,000 ships cross it every year. Around 65 per cent of the world’s oil reserves belong to just 10 of the Indian Ocean littoral states.
There is no other place where the bedrock concerns of the United States, India, China, Japan, and Australia all converge, making the Indian Ocean strategically integral to the balance of power in the Western Pacific. Even as the world’s attention is focused on the East China Sea and the South China Sea as focal points of China’s strategic outreach onto the high seas, the East Indian Ocean has become another critical body of water.