Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister says the Indian Ocean region has always been a significant playing field for big powers and historically it has also been a bridge between the East and West.
Speaking at the Indian Ocean Conference Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the wealth and technology gap between the West and the East has narrowed significantly by the sheer weight of numbers in Asia.
“By the year 2030, it is estimated that Asia will surpass North America and Europe combined, in terms of global power based on GDP, population size, military spending and technological investment,” Wickremesinghe said.
Prime Minister said the US is now proposing the furtherance of a single combined security strategy for the two Asian oceans, the Indian and the Pacific, creating new implications for Asian security.
This is highlighted by the emergence of such concepts as the Indo-Pacific and more recently the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
“Will this create a super region with Maritime Asia at its centre? The question is whether such a region is viable?”
Wickremesinghe however said in the future there will be resistance to any single country attempting to unilaterally shape the strategic order of the region.
“The Indian Ocean still has a heavy British influence; the Pacific has taken to American practices.”
He said unlike the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Region has been intrinsic to US security.
“For this reason US Administrations from Presidents Franklin D Roosevelt to George W Bush have treated these two areas separately.”
He further said that on the other hand, the countries in the Indian Ocean Region have historically been reluctant to join power blocs.
The final objective will be the agreement on an Indian Ocean Order and a settled arrangement guiding the interaction between states to ensure the safety and security of the Indian Ocean and its lanes of communications, he said.
“The multipolar world we live in will be dominated by the competition among the five or six major Global powers during the next two decades.”
“It may well be a protracted undetermined contest. The Indian Ocean will be a major theatre of competition. But the multiplicity of contestants gives us – in the region – a margin of flexibility, which we must utilize to determine the regional order.”