Another hotspot: the Indian Ocean…

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The Pacific and the SCS are not the only theatre of imperialist rivalries: the Indian Ocean is becoming another area of confrontation.

The sea lanes in the Indian Ocean are considered among the most strategically important in the world—according to the Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, more than 80% of the world’s seaborne trade in oil transits through Indian Ocean bottlenecks, with 40% passing through the Strait of Hormuz, 35% through the Strait of Malacca and 8% through the Bab el-Mandab Strait. Half the world’s containerized cargo sails through this vital waterway. It is not just a question of sea lanes and trade, however. More than half the world’s armed conflicts are presently located in the Indian Ocean region. In addition to being the theatre of the imperialist ambitions of China and India, there is the permanent threat of a potential nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan, US interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, permanent conflict around Iran, Islamist terrorism, increasing piracy in and around the Horn of Africa, and conflicts over diminishing fishery resources.

In fact the Indian Ocean is a crucial “interface” between the zone of imperialist tensions in the Middle East and rising tensions in the Far East, the South China Sea, and the broader Pacific. Although it has been speculated that the Indian Ocean might contain 40% of the world’s oil reserves, and there is fresh exploration for oil in the seas of India, Sri Lanka and Burma, the Ocean's importance has increased since the relative decline of US power in the region has left a void that is increasingly being filled by China and India.

China is not the only country enhancing its presence in the Indian Ocean. Japan is eager to participate in the efforts to contain China and has promised Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia $7.18 billion in development aid over the next three years to help build up infrastructure, including high-speed rail, port and water supply projects. But it is above all India, the biggest country on the littoral which has traditionally had a land-oriented strategic outlook, that has been obliged to counter China's penetration into the Indian Ocean. Much is at stake for India: India imports some 70% of its oil and gas, and some two-thirds of this travels through the Indian Ocean. India is the fourth-largest consumer of oil in the world, and it relies on crude shipments from Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia and Iran. It also imports large amounts of coal from Indonesia and Australia. These dependencies and the crucial role of the sea lanes along its shores have made India very vulnerable from the sea. And of course, India's emergence as a new regional player has increased its imperialist appetite.