China’s Renaming Of Indian Ocean Sparks Geopolitical Tensions

During the conference, which focused on promoting a sustainable blue economy and fostering a maritime community with a shared future, the term ‘China-Indian Ocean Region’ was widely used in official documents.

China’s recent move to refer to the Indian Ocean as the ‘China-Indian Ocean Region’ (CIOR) has caused significant waves in the geopolitical arena. This announcement was made during the Blue Economy of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) conference held in Kunming, Yunnan Province.

During the conference, which focused on promoting a sustainable blue economy and fostering a maritime community with a shared future, the term ‘China-Indian Ocean Region’ was widely used in official documents. This renaming signifies China’s opposition to the conventional identification of the Indian Ocean solely with India and its aspiration to have a stake in the region.

Regional participants at the conference seemed to support China’s perspective, expressing concerns that the exclusive association of the ocean with India strengthens New Delhi’s pursuit of dominance. Given the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, spanning over 70,560,000 sq km, it has become a battleground for competition between India and China due to its abundant resources and strategic significance.

China’s interest in the Indian Ocean is not a recent development. During the medieval era, Chinese Admiral Zheng He sailed across the Indian Ocean, showcasing China’s naval power. Today, with President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in full swing, China is once again exploring the Indian Ocean for economic and political opportunities.

China’s expanding presence in the Indian Ocean is causing both concern and opportunity throughout the region. While India, the traditional regional power, is cautiously apprehensive about this development, other nations in the IOR see the potential for collaboration and economic growth.

The recent conference, which focused on joint resource management, disaster mitigation, and blue economy initiatives, highlights China’s ambition to play a leading role in shaping the future of the IOR. By establishing a regional think tank network and implementing livelihood projects, China is demonstrating its commitment to building partnerships and fostering mutual benefit.

However, India’s concerns about maintaining its long-held dominance in the region cannot be overlooked. China’s growing maritime strength and its proximity to India’s exclusive economic zone are seen as potential threats to India’s strategic interests. The proposal to rename the Indian Ocean as the “China-centric Indian Ocean” further exacerbates anxieties about a possible shift in regional power dynamics.