The Rise of the Bengal Tigers: The Growing Strategic Importance of the Bay of Bengal

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When: Jun 4 2015 - 12:00pm until Jun 4 2015 - 1:30pm
Where: 1819 L Street, NW, Washington, DC, Sixth Floor Conference Room
What:

The Rise of the Bengal Tigers: The Growing Strategic Importance of the Bay of Bengal

An Asia Pacific Security Seminar featuring:

Dr. David Brewster
Distinguished Research Fellow, Australia India Institute, University of Melbourne; Research Fellow, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University; Fellow, Royal Australian Navy Sea Power Centre

The Rise of the Bengal Tigers: The Growing Strategic Importance of the Bay of Bengal from East-West Center on Vimeo.


Dr. David Brewster Distinguished Research Fellow, Australia India Institute, University of Melbourne; Research Fellow, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University; Fellow, Royal Australian Navy Sea Power Centre

The rise of the Bengal Tigers may change the face of Asia. The Bay of Bengal region is now rising in economic and strategic importance and indeed may be on the way to becoming a prime zone of strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific. The Bay physically connects the Pacific and Indian Oceans and the region’s bright economic prospects are now making it a key economic connector between East and South Asia.

This talk looks at strategic developments in the Bay of Bengal and their implications for our understanding of the Indo-Pacific. Dr. Brewster argued that the Bay of Bengal is becoming a key strategic focus point as India, China and other powers compete to dominate the region.

Similarly to the South China Sea, the Bay of Bengal is a key area of Sea Lines of Communication or SLOC, where many lines of trade and maritime, including military, logistics take place. There is also strategic development of islands to be used for military purposes.

Although it may seem obvious that India should be the principle player in this region given its long border with the Bay of Bengal, that is far from the case. In fact, following its independence from British rule India lost many of the established trade routes and other advantages its colonial power had enjoyed and as such is now playing "catch-up." The main power that India has to catch up to is China, which sees the Bay of Bengal as an integral part of its "One Belt One Road" policy which combines its proposed maritime and over-land trade routes into one giant network. Though still in its early stages of development, the "One Belt One Road" policy has led China to invest in neighboring countries' infrastructure, particularly Pakistan and Myanmar where it has ongoing pipeline projects in an attempt to lessen its dependence on the Malacca Strait for oil imports. As such, these investments have led China to pay close attention to the security within Pakistan and Myanmar, among others, and it has begun to beef up its presence in the region to protct its investments. 

While China maintains that its "One Belt One Road" policy is predominantly trade-focused, India has grown increasingly wary of China's larger presence in the Bay of Bengal region. Dr. Brewster explained that a chief reason for that is the growing trade presence that China could enjoy via this policy with India's Northeastern states. Landlocked and one of the chief outposts of rebels who are dissatisfied with the Indian government, Northeastern India is a region that the government in Dehli has been watching with apprehension. If China were to gain a foothold it could further limit India's influence in its far-off states. As a result, India has fundamentally rejected any Chinese military presence in the Bay of Bengal and has continued building up its own military, including on the strategic islands of Andaman and Nicobar. 

This is not to say that China is alone in the growing strategic competition surrounding the Bay of Bengal. Dr. Brewster also pointed out that Japan too is looking to increase its presence in the region. Over the past few years Japan has recognized the growing importance of the Bay of Bengal as an economic and physcial connection between East and Southeast Asia, the latter of which also growning in importance for Japan's production lines. South Korea and Malaysia also have increased their presence in the region, especially in Myanmar. 

 For more images, please visit the album for this event on the East-West Center's Flickr page. 


Dr. David Brewster is a Distinguished Research Fellow with the Australia India Institute, University of Melbourne, Visiting Fellow with the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University and a Fellow with the Royal Australian Navy Sea Power Centre. He has written extensively on Indian Ocean security and India’s security relationships in the Indo-Pacific. His books include India’s Ocean: the Story of India’s Bid for Regional Leadership which examines India’s strategic aspirations in the Indian Ocean region and India as an Asia Pacific Power which explores India’s growing security relationships in the Asia Pacific. He is the author of numerous academic papers on Indian and Indian Ocean security affairs. See: https://regnet.academia.edu/DavidBrewster 


Primary Contact Info:
Name: Sarah Batiuk
Phone: 202-327-9755