This paper is part of a forthcoming series exploring maritime and security policy issues in the Indian Ocean, to be released in the summer of 2012. Together, the papers will examine emerging trends and challenges in the ocean realm, including the international deployment of naval power, the commercial shipping industry, offshore energy development and natural resources management, the future of the Law of the Sea, and evolving pressures on the marine environment.
Multiple sources of insecurity afflict many of the countries that rim the Indian Ocean. These challenges include simmering conflicts between Persian Gulf states; terrorism in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, and Saudi Arabia; insurgency in Yemen and Iraq; state failure, civil war, and famine in Somalia; high-volume trafficking of drugs from Afghanistan via Pakistan and Iran; and piracy and armed robbery at sea. Not all of these security concerns have occurred at peak intensity at the same time, and thus it is arguable that they have been addressed ‘sufficiently’ on an ‘if and when’ basis. Even so, these risks threaten one of the most critical strategic and trading spaces in the world. The Persian Gulf remains the global market’s most important source of crude oil, while the northern Indian Ocean constitutes a key sector of the globe’s east-west-east trading belt. For this reason, it is all the more remarkable that these issues have not previously caused a greater holistic security breakdown in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).