In the centre of the world - the Indian Ocean as a geo-strategic area and a doctrinaire challenge

Henrique Schneider

 

When in the past world maps were drawn which did not depict the Atlantic Ocean in the centre, the Indian Ocean was the centre of the world. Asia and Oceania have been connected with each other and with Africa for a much longer time than Europe with Northern Africa. About 1500 one could marvel at African giraffes in Nanjing in China. They had been brought from Africa by sailors. Indian priest slaves were active in Zanzibar as early as in the 17th century. In the 18th century already there was an African - black - minority in Sumatra. After the Second World War, Malaysian nationalists consciously modelled their ideologies on Egypt. After Japan’s surrender, even the British Command of South-East Asia comprised all countries and territories at the Indian Ocean. An extended perspective from the Indian area, which comprises Australia as obviously as the Arab region and today’s Israel, quickly demonstrates that the three monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as the two eastern religions Hinduism and Buddhism, had their origins in this area. The Silk Route belongs to this perspective just as the old maritime trade routes from India to Africa and to Indonesia. The development of writing, the first urban settlements, and the first wars in which hundreds of thousands of people where involved, also connect the history of the individual nations in the area. In the shade of the Cold War, however, the Indian Ocean temporarily had lost its transparent strategic importance. Today the Indian Ocean brings back three economic, security-political and cultural complexes of problems into the public: The central position of Islam (including the connected, but not intrinsic terrorism, and the Near East), the worldwide energy policy, and the development of China and India into „Global Players“ as well as potential antagonists in a decentralized and multi-polar system. The effects of these conflicts have different facets and actively approach Europe. Here we are talking about demonstrating how conflicts of interests emerge from trade dimensions of the interactions in the Indian region, which provoke geo-strategic challenges at the same time, resulting in military chances. The Indian Ocean does not always have to be the centre of Austria’s ideology, but considering its self to be the focal reference of its own politics would be in the Republic’s interest. With the increasing geo-strategic importance of the Indian area also grows the influence of those contributing to the political-military architecture of the region. If Austria draws the correct conclusions, Vienna will be able to keep up with its importance, too.