The Indian Ocean is an increasingly contested strategic environment. A growing Chinese naval presence raises the prospect that Beijing may seek to challenge US naval dominance, potentially sparking a competitive naval arms race in the region. This would be of huge concern to Australia, forcing us to divert limited defence resources from other priority areas in the Indo-Pacific. Australia and its partners need to consider how to best leverage their strategic advantages to deter or limit China’s naval ambitions in the Indian Ocean.
One of the biggest advantages of Australia and its Indian Ocean partners, and one of China’s biggest vulnerabilities, is in maritime domain awareness. The ability of even large vessels to effectively disappear in the vastness of the Indian Ocean puts maritime domain awareness at a premium. If you can find a naval adversary and they can’t find your ships, the odds are definitely in your favour.
The National Security College (NSC), with the support of the Department of Defence, is leading a two-year research project on Australia’s Indo-Pacific strategy in the Indian Ocean. As a part of this project, this paper analyses the potential for a maritime surveillance network across the Indian Ocean. This paper first appeared in ASPI’s ‘The Strategist’ on 4 August 2021.
Image: CPL Craig Barrett/Defence Image Library