Indian Ocean Policy

March 10, 1971

Report Outline
Strategic Vacuum East of Suez
Indian Ocean in Geopolitical Perspective
Indian Ocean in the Seventies
Special Focus

Strategic Vacuum East of Suez

U.S. Concern Over New Soviet Interest in Area

The waning british presence in the Indian Ocean leaves a political and strategic void which other big powers increasingly show signs of wanting to fill. Over the past three years, the Russians have moved substantial elements of their fleet into the ocean, surmounting considerable logistic obstacles to do so, and have sharply increased their economic and political activity in the Asian, African and Middle Eastern nations on the ocean's littoral.

Washington has been nervously eyeing the Soviet initiative but, publicly at least, has been reluctant to make a full-scale move into the area. Embittered and wearied by the long and costly involvement in Southeast Asia, the American people seem to want fewer, not more, American commitments to remote and little understood regions of the world. The Nixon Doctrine, first announced by the President on his Asian tour in 1969 and subsequently refined in two annual “State of the World” messages to Congress, calls for reducing the U.S. military presence in Viet Nam, and for maintaining a “low profile” in most other areas. Wherever practical, the President aims to substitute U.S. arms and equipment for American manpower.

Nonetheless, there is evidence that concern about the Indian Ocean is building at the top policy levels of government. The National Security Council recently completed a review of U.S. strategic interests in the region. The Pentagon was reported to have held secret talks on what to do about a growing Soviet naval buildup in the Indian Ocean. The Naval War College recently undertook a study of potential Soviet threats to the ocean's “choke points”—key straits and passageways. The Center for Strategic and International Studies scheduled a conference, March 18–19, for international experts on the history, economy and politics of the Indian Ocean area. The center is an influential, non-governmental program of Georgetown University and frequently serves as a sounding board for U.S. policy initiatives.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
U.S.-Soviet Relations
Sep. 14, 1990  The Western Alliance After the Cold War
Feb. 10, 1989  Soviet Trade: In America's Best Interest?
Nov. 01, 1985  U.S.-Soviet Summitry
Jul. 09, 1982  Controlling Scientific Information
May 25, 1973  Trends in U.S.-Soviet Relations
Apr. 05, 1972  Russia's Diplomatic Offensive
Feb. 09, 1972  Trading with Communist Nations
Mar. 10, 1971  Indian Ocean Policy
Apr. 21, 1965  Negotiations with Communists
Nov. 13, 1963  Scientific Cooperation with the Soviet Union
Oct. 03, 1963  Trade with the Communists
Sep. 11, 1963  Non-Aggression Pacts and Surprise Attack
Oct. 11, 1961  East-West Negotiations
Mar. 29, 1961  Russia and United Nations
Aug. 10, 1960  Challenged Monroe Doctrine
Sep. 02, 1959  American-Soviet Trade
Jul. 03, 1959  Cultural Exchanges with Soviet Russia
Aug. 11, 1958  Conference Diplomacy
Jul. 23, 1958  Limited War
May 14, 1958  Cold War Propaganda
Feb. 26, 1958  Military Disengagement
Feb. 20, 1957  Indirect Aggression
Jul. 25, 1956  Trading with Communists
Jan. 11, 1956  Economic Cold War
Nov. 26, 1954  Peaceful Coexistence
Dec. 01, 1953  Tests of Allied Unity
Sep. 18, 1953  Negotiating with the Reds
Jun. 17, 1953  East-West Trade
Apr. 12, 1951  Non-Military Weapons in Cold-War Offensive
Apr. 20, 1949  Mediterranean Pact and Near East Security
Apr. 28, 1948  Trade with Russia
Sep. 11, 1946  Loyalty in Government
Jul. 31, 1946  Arctic Defenses
Apr. 01, 1943  American and British Relations with Russia
Feb. 24, 1933  Soviet-American Political and Trade Relations
Nov. 03, 1931  Russian-American Relations
Feb. 14, 1924  Russian Trade with the United States
Regional Political Affairs: Middle East and South Asia
Regional Political Affairs: Russia and the Former Soviet Union