Such a Full Sea: Australia’s Options in a Changing Indian Region is a unique and timely study of one of the world’s most dynamic regions, and an area of inescapable and rising importance to Australia. The book looks at the transformation of a zone on which Australia is already disproportionately dependent for its wealth, and for its future opportunity. It also studies the threats, challenges, and concerns which the Indian Ocean region will pose to Australia in the coming decades.
Such a Full Sea — a study undertaken under the aegis of Future Directions International, Australia’s Centre for Strategic Analysis — is the first major appreciation of the Indian Ocean region in decades, and such a study has never before been undertaken in Australia. It ranges from issues of regional food production, growing economic and population significance for the region in global terms, the rise of regional powers, and the new surge into the region of foreign powers.
The study notes in its Introduction: “Australia, however, ignores its Indian Ocean frontier at its peril. Australia’s Indian Ocean littoral provides the nation with the single largest area of its resource exports; a growing proportion of its food production; frontage to the most significant and challenged of its maritime trading routes; and the potential to gain a greater foothold in the resources of the oceans. It is also an avenue to its access to, and control of, the Southern Ocean and Australian Antarctica, regions of great geopolitical and resource importance to Australia’s future.”
“The keys to the Indian Ocean, for the first time for some 500 years, have come to be held by the littoral states, despite the fact that the Ocean has become the most concentrated complex of trade routes critical to the survival of all major world economies. There are now more extra-regional powers with combatant forces in the Indian Ocean region than possibly at any time in history, yet — despite this — the local states have begun to assert themselves. This study spells out why the region has become so dynamic and important: it is home to a third of the world’s peoples, to an increasing amount of its resources and markets, and to a significant prospect for increased major instability.”
The study also notes that Australians in general have never embraced the reality that the nation is a thalassocracy, a society of, and dependent on, the oceans. It is indeed a maritime power, but still a nation without a comprehensive maritime and mercantile policy.
Such a Full Sea presents a series of cogent options for Australia to cope with, and prosper from, the transformation of the Indian Ocean region in the coming decades within a challenging economic era.
As the study notes, “the dynamic region for Australia is the Indian Ocean. Australia’s Indian Ocean island possessions — unknown to most Australians — are already vital geostrategic and economic stakes for Australia reaching up toward Arabia and the southern reaches of Asia. As this study shows, we must recognise the importance of these assets or risk losing them within a twinkling of history’s future. Australians must, indeed, safeguard and enhance their dominion in and over much of the Indian Ocean at a time when economic crises and currency challenges bite deeply into defence, aid, and investment budgets.