Thursday, 26 July 2012

Indian Ocean and the Rimland

Before the First World War, Mackinder, a British geographer presented the first geopolitical idea in his research paper. He identified the combined land of Eurasia and Africa as World Island which represented the largest occupancy of land and people. During the phase of turmoil and the unsuccessful attempt of German invasion on Russia, Mackinder moulded his theory and presented the 'Heartland concept' in 1919. His famous quote was, "Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; Who rules the World Island commands the World." This theory was further amended leading to criticism on the economic front, the, unfavourable physiography, climate and cultural attributes. 

In the meanwhile another significant scholar, Spykman presented the 'Rimland concept' in 1944, incorporating maritime Europe, crude-oil rich West Asia, agrarian and dense clustered India and China along with Heartland of Mackinder. In accordance Spykman concluded that the one who commands Rimland will command the world island and thus the world. On the economic front, Rimland with huge potentiality justified the validity of the concept. But on the political aspect, consolidated Rimland lacked its practicality with individual countries specifically of Asia posing as distinctive nodes. 

The rim countries barring the exception of Singapore and Australia are newly independent developing countries. The only entity which unites these nodes is the Indian ocean. Traced back to colonial times, the Indian ocean gained significance as the British Lake, with Colombo functioning as the naval headquarters. Indian ocean identified itself with strategically important locational characteristics in comparison to other oceans of the world. The continental ocean is bounded by land along the three sides making it geographically distinguished and known as the half ocean. 

In addition to this, the ocean connects the sea route between Atlantic and Pacific through the Suez canal and Strait of Malacca. The offshore crude-oil, exploitable manganese nodules, natural gas reserves and the onshore gold reserves, tin, manganese and the assortment of marine resources and the agricultural produce with the onshore reference adds to the commercial value. Thus there is a convergence of interests which has led to instability in the region. The existence of naval bases of UK and USA at Chagos archipelago and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, the presence of navy of China under the viel of research in open seas and the so called 'string of pearls' adds to the growing significance of Rimland concept and ultimately the Indian ocean.

- Shivaprasad Patil 

The writer is a Civil service aspirant.

Twitter handle : @shivpatilb

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