Crucible for Survival: Environmental Security and Justice in the Indian Ocean Region

By Timothy Doyle; Melissa Risely | Go to book overview

2
Securitizing the Indian Ocean
Region
CONCRETE ENTITY AND GEOPOLITICAL
IMAGINATIONS

DENNIS RUMLEY


Introduction

The main purpose of this chapter is to identify some of the central issues raised in this book within the three broadly defined themes of changing geopolitical orientations, regional cooperation, and security concerns. However, before doing this, a brief discussion is undertaken of the question of Indian Ocean regional definition.


The Indian Ocean as a Region

From an academic geographical perspective, one of the broadest definitions of the region is that it includes 47 littoral and land-locked states bordering on the Indian Ocean (IFIOR 1995). However, if all Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) states are included, then this raises the total number of regional states to at least 50. Either way, such a definition results in a very large region of considerable ethnic, religious, economic, political, and cultural diversity with little apparent commonality. However, it has been argued that, prior to European colonial contact, the economies of the Indian Ocean Region comprised a self-conscious “world” (McPherson 1993, 5). While there is presently a relatively low level of functional cohesion among regional states, the orientation to the ocean creates a degree of common interest and forms the basis for a potentially greater degree of functional interaction in the future. Furthermore, apart from the colonial heritage, one critically important commonality of Indian Ocean states is that the majority are members of the developing world and few of them possess high human development indices. Common developmental problems (Kerr 1981; Appleyard and Ghosh 1988) and their implications for national and regional security, defined in the broadest sense, can also provide a basis for increased South-South cooperation.

The academic and the practical policy definition of the Indian Ocean as a region is an inevitably contested issue as a result. The principal reason for this is fairly obvious—all regions are constructed, and, depending on the primary purpose of this construction—academic, administrative, economic, or, whatever—different

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