China has a legitimate role to play in ensuring security in the Indian Ocean, a task force report produced by Australian and Indian experts has concluded.
Approaches that seek to exclude China are unlikely to guarantee long-term regional stability, according to the report, commissioned by the Australia India Institute based at the University of Melbourne. At the same time, the report notes, China among others is using foreign aid as a ‘weapon of influence’ in the region. It describes the northwest Indian Ocean as ‘potentially one of the most insecure areas on earth’. Current security arrangements are seen as ‘fragile’ and ‘incomplete’.
The report calls for an inclusive approach to a region which is now home to the world’s most important and sensitive trade routes. It warns that a host of threats, from piracy to failed states and sea-level rise require more active engagement by both great powers and local Indo-Pacific nations.
The task force which produced the report included former Australian Secretary of Defence Ric Smith, and was edited by one of Australia’s leading experts on the Indian Ocean, Dr Dennis Rumley.
The report argues that with China and Japan relying heavily on oil imports shipped via the Indian Ocean, there is a compelling need for better security structures. A fundamental shift in the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region, including a decline in the relative military power of the United States, has created significant strategic uncertainties for Australia which are only likely to intensify, the report says.
Australia, India and South Africa will increasingly have mutual significant security interests this century, and these three nations could form the foundation for new regional maritime security cooperation arrangements in the Indian Ocean, it concludes.
The report of the Australia India Institute Task Force on Indian Ocean Security, ‘Security, Stability and Sustainability in the 21st century’ will be jointly launched by the Hon Richard Marles, MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs; and Mr Ric Smith, at 11 am (DST) Wednesday 20th March, 2013 in the Mural Hall, Parliament House, Canberra in the presence of Task Force members from India and Australia, and the Director of the Australia India institute, Professor Amitabh Mattoo.
FOR INTERVIEWS WITH RIC SMITH, DENNIS RUMLEY AND OTHER TASKFORCE MEMBERS PLEASE CONTACT:
Christopher Kremmer (03) 9035-9624 or 0481-032-731 (m) OR
Alexandra Hansen (03) 9035-8681 or 0423951135 (m)