Indo-US Militarisation of Western Indian Ocean – Implications for Pakistan

Key Points: 

  • After the passage of National Defence Authorisation Act for Fiscal Year (NDAA) 2020, the Defence Department will need to expand the Area of Responsibility (AoR) of US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), thereby, fully incorporating Indian Ocean waters within its fold. Such massive geostrategic revisions will take considerable time to materialise and might prove financially and operationally risky.
  • An important aspect of the US dependability on India is to make up for the former’s limited naval presence in Africa.
  • Indian strategic analysts are very clear about their core concerns in the Indian Ocean, citing the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s growing presence and Pakistan Navy’s expanding submarine fleet to justify maritime assertiveness
  • Washington’s new “Western Indian Ocean” construct will mostly impact existing allies under the US Central Command AoR.
  • Pakistan will also face significant geostrategic challenges, most importantly a looming shadow of Indian Navy aggression in the Arabian Sea.
  • In the current environment, the only deterrent to expansionist Indo-US maritime coordination in East Africa/ Western Indian Ocean (WIO) is the PLA Navy Support Base in Djibouti, close to US Navy’s Camp Lemonnier.
  • Pakistan cannot rely on China alone to ensure freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean. Islamabad will have to scrap its irrational policy of thinking within the confines of North Arabian Sea and switch to maritime security policymaking from a continental perspective.
  • If the future maritime operating environment in WIO is dominated by India through persistent American patronage, it will disrupt Pakistan’s strategic stability paradigm thereby prompting the nuclearisation of the Indian Ocean.
Zaki Khalid

Zaki Khalid

is a freelance national security and strategic affairs commentator whose writings have appeared in South Asia Journal, The Nation, Russian International Affairs Council, The Frontier Post and Pakistan Observer, to name a few. He can be reached on Twitter @misterzedpk

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