We often neglect the Indian Ocean when we talk about our macro-level models of geopolitics, global economics or grand strategy—often in favor of the Atlantic or the Pacific. Yet the Indian Ocean—along whose coasts live a third of humanity—may be a better vehicle to understand how our world is changing.
Globalization first began in the Indian Ocean with traders sailing between the Gulf, South Asia and Southeast Asia, spreading goods, cultures and ideas. And now, with no hegemon and an array of different states, governments, and economies, the world may look more like the Indian Ocean in the future.
Beyond Liberal Order: States, Societies and Markets in the Global Indian Ocean, edited by Harry Verhoeven and Anatol Lieven, studies the countries in the Indian Ocean—nations as different as Singapore, Pakistan, and Somalia—to look at how our understanding of the post-Cold War world order doesn’t quite align with this part of the world.
Harry Verhoeven is a Senior Research Scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy, School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. He is the Convenor of the Oxford University China-Africa Network and a Senior Adviser at the European Institute of Peace. He is the author of Water, Civilisation and Power in Sudan (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and Why Comrades Go To War (Oxford University Press, 2016) and the editor of Environmental Politics in the Middle East (Oxford University Press, 2018).
Anatol Lieven is a senior fellow of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft in Washington DC, and was formerly a professor at Georgetown University in Qatar and King’s College London. In the 1980s and 1990s he worked as a British journalist in South Asia and the former Soviet Union, and is the author of several books on these regions including Pakistan: A Hard Country (PublicAffairs, 2012). His most recent book, Climate Change and the Nation State, appeared in paperback in 2021.
In this interview, the three of us talk about the Indian Ocean—and how it challenges the way we think about international relations and the international system.