The Washington Quarterly, Journal of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
In the past few years, the Indian Ocean has emerged as a major center of geostrategic interest. The Pentagon’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) set the tone by calling for a more “integrated approach to the region across military and civilian organizations” and asking the rest of the U.S. government for an assessment of “U.S. national interests, objectives and force posture implications,” which the National Security Council is now undertaking in preparation for the next National Security Strategy report, expected in 2012. Key U.S. allies have also elevated the Indian Ocean in their strategic planning documents. Australia’s 2009 Defence White Paper, for example, noted that “over the period to 2030, the Indian Ocean will join the Pacific Ocean in terms of its centrality to our maritime strategy and defence planning.” Japan’s 2011 National Defense Policy Guidelines stipulated that “Japan will enhance cooperation with India and other countries that share common interests in ensuring the security of maritime navigation from Africa and the Middle East to East Asia.”
It is not enough to note that the Indian Ocean region is becoming more important or that multiple transnational challenges exist. The 2010 QDR was right to move this debate forward by asking the rest of the U.S. government to begin with an assessment of U.S. interests, objectives, and force posture implications in the Indian Ocean region; U.S. allies would be wise to do the same. To that end, what vital U.S. interests really are at stake in the Indian Ocean region today? What strategy and resources are required to protect and advance those interests?