American Power in Indian ocean, a book review

[TamilNet, Sunday, 14 November 2010, 18:24 GMT]
Greater Indian Ocean, from the Horn of Africa to Indonesia, "may comprise a map as iconic to the new century as Europe was to the last one" and "demographically and strategically be a hub of the twenty-first century world." This makes the Indian Ocean "the essential place to contemplate the future of U.S. power," says Robert D. Kaplan, an influential US writer of foreign policy, in a recent book, Monsoon:The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power, a review of which appeared in the weekend edition of Washington Post.

Several references to Sri Lanka in the book makes an interesting reading,

On tracing Chinese sailor-salesmen of the past, the book references a message left by traveller Admiral Sheng 600 years earlier.

"In 1410, near the Sri Lankan coastal town of Galle, Chinese Admiral Zheng He erected a stone tablet with a message to the world. His inscription was in three languages - Chinese, Persian and Tamil - and his message was even more remarkable. According to Robert Kaplan the admiral "invoked the blessings of the Hindu deities for a peaceful world built on trade.""

On the well known "string of pearl" concept the author notes Pakistani port of Gwadar and Sri Lanka's Hambantota, both being developed by the Chinese, the former, author thinks, for strategic reasons; the latter for commercial ones.

Commenting on Sri Lanka's political trajectory, the book says, "like the Serbs in the former Yugoslavia and the Shiites in Iran, the Sinhalese [in Sri Lanka] are a demographic majority with a dangerous minority complex of persecution." In the author's view, Indonesia reveals both a "clash" and a "merger of civilizations," the reviewer says in the Washington Post.

The reviewer faults the author for justifying his interests with portentous claims: Sri Lanka is "the ultimate register of geopolitical trends in the Indian Ocean region," Burma "provides a code for understanding the world to come," Indonesia will be "a critical hub of world politics."

In a not so complimentary review the reviewer says, "the book convinces the reader that what Kaplan calls Monsoon Asia is a profoundly interesting and complicated part of the world, but the chapters don't add up to a coherent argument as to why the region should matter more to the United States than anywhere else."

External Links:
US: Biography: Robert D. Kaplan
WP: Will the Indian Ocean define the 21st century?


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