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Maldives Table of Contents


Chapter 6. Strategic Considerations


Anchor, symbolizing naval power in the Indian Ocean

HISTORICALLY, the western Indian Ocean has played a vital role in international politics. In ancient times, maritime commerce attracted numerous nations to the region, including Egypt, Persia (Iran), Ceylon (Sri Lanka), India, Indonesia, and China. During the period of European colonial empires, Portugal, the Netherlands, Britain, and France sought to protect their respective strategic and commercial interests by protecting the lines of communications and providing external defense and internal security to Madagascar, Mauritius, Comoros, Seychelles, and Maldives. After 1945, Cold War considerations provoked competition between the United States and the former Soviet Union for access to strategically important air and naval bases in the western Indian Ocean and for the loyalties of the area's indigenous governments. Britain and France also maintained a military and political presence in the region throughout much of the Cold War. After the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, Moscow ended its military presence in the western Indian Ocean. However, the United States has continued to maintain an interest in the region. The post-Cold War era also has provided traditional powers such as France and emerging regional states such as India, South Africa, and Australia with an opportunity to increase their activities in the western Indian Ocean.

In addition to the presence of foreign military powers in the region, Madagascar, Mauritius, Comoros, Seychelles, and Maldives have pursued their own national security objectives. Apart from providing internal stability, indigenous security forces have sought to protect the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) claimed by all five countries and to prevent the use of the western Indian Ocean as a transshipment point for illegal drugs.

Data as of August 1994