Maritime Commerce and Security: The Indian Ocean describes the commercial trends and their security implications with a view to helping policy makers and others outside the industry understand the vulnerabilities of an industry that is central to the global economy and security.
Maritime commerce in the Indian Ocean is vital to global trade, in volume, in the key resources and manufactured goods that it moves, and in the steadily predominating significance of the economies of East Asia, India, the Gulf, Australia, and South Africa.
It has also seen rapid and far reaching change, in investment in ports and vessels, and in the emergence of entirely new maritime commercial powers such as Singapore, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. The economic shocks registered throughout the world in the past three years, especially the downturn in trade volumes, have added significant uncertainty about the future of investments and national strategic calculations.
In the contemporary Indian Ocean, the close relationship between commerce and security takes many forms. Piracy is now seen emanating increasingly far from the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden into the deep ocean. Naval task forces involving a dozen nations have had mixed success in protecting these vital lifelines of commerce. The Chinese Navy's presence in the Indian Ocean and Chinese commercial investments in port infrastructure have been perceived by India as an integrated source of strategic threat, and have occasioned a strategic rivalry between the two rising powers. Indian naval presence and activity have both proceeded from such worries and given rise to security concerns among other countries in the region. Similarly, among smaller powers, Singapore's robust security posture in large part reflects its importance as a commercial and maritime nation.