Building Strategic Leverage in the Indian Ocean Region

The United States and its likeminded partners, particularly India — if four constraints are more realistically accounted for — and other members of the Quad, can more effectively mitigate the risks of Chinese military expansion by building “strategic leverage” along these four lines of effort in the Indian Ocean region.
Cover of the The Washington Quarterly journal (Vol. 43, issue 4) and a portrait of Arzan Tarapore
Over the past decade, China has established a permanent and escalating military presence in the Indian Ocean region. The littoral states, islands, and waters of the Indian Ocean—defined here by the choke points of the Cape of
Good Hope, Bab el-Mandeb, the Strait of Hormuz, the Malacca Strait, and the Torres Strait—are part of the wider Indo-Pacific region, but they constitute a distinct strategic landscape. The United States’ strategic competition with China does extend to the Indian Ocean region, but it does not take the same form as the heavily militarized territorial disputes of the western rim of the Pacific Ocean or the South China Sea, which attract the lion’s share of attention
from US policymakers and military planners. The Indian Ocean faces a particular set of strategic risks and a particular constellation of likeminded partners—an effective strategy must account for those particularities.