The Indian Ocean, sometimes called the maritime Silk Road, represents the profound linkages between the Middle East and a rising Asia. The trade and economic connectivity has been well understood for years. China, Japan and India rely heavily on oil from the Persian Gulf states, while a new economic interdependence has developed in manufactured goods, energy refinery capacity, food security and labor migration.
Far from the Washington chatter about the “pivot” to Asia somehow adversely affecting the Arab world, from the Indian perspective, Asia and the Middle East form a dynamic and interactive geopolitical space.
A recent conference I attended in Singapore recalled many of the historic flows of people, goods and ideas between the Middle East and Asia. These flows brought Islam to Southeast Asia, Indian and Sri Lankan workers to the oil-rich states, and deep cultural ties between Iran and Turkey on the one hand, and Central Asia and Western China on the other.
In the early 21st century, however, these linkages combine with uncertainties about American power and influence to raise new questions about the Middle East. Is it in play for China? Is there a contest for which great power (status quo or new) has the greatest responsibility and capacity to shape events in the volatile region?
To read the full op-ed, click here.
This op-ed first appeared in the International Business Times on June 28, 2013.
Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Defense via Flickr.