Enhancing Australia’s Engagement with the Indian Ocean Region

By James Bowen

The Perth USAsia Centre is pleased to release a new special report titled “Enhancing Australia’s engagement with the Indian Ocean region”. The report seeks to improve Australia’s understanding of this large and complex region and provides recommendations on which issues, with which partners, and through which institutions and mechanisms, Australia might better engage.

The Indian Ocean region hosts some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. It is a critical conduit for commerce and central to emerging global security dynamics. Indian Ocean states area also heavily impacted by climate change and other environmental threats. 

Regional perspectives are at the heart of the report. Contributing authors have identified the issues and contexts facing the key Indian Ocean littoral states of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. Editor James Bowen, a Perth USAsia Centre Policy Fellow, synthesised the contents of the eight contributions and identified several key challenges and opportunities for Australian policymakers to address. 

Indian Ocean areas that are most ripe for Australian collaboration are infrastructure, climate change, blue economy, and maritime security. Australia will also need to consider three key issues while pursuing engagement in the region: the roles of China, the US, and India in the regional power balance; the lack of well-resourced and fit-for-purpose Indian Ocean institutional architecture; and the lack of a strong regional identity.

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