The Indian Ocean Rim defines a distinctive area in international politics consisting of coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean. It is a region of much diversity, in culture, race, religion, economic development, and strategic interests. The countries vary in the size of their populations, economies, trade, and technological development and in the composition of their GDP. A number of sub-regions are evident, for example Southern and Eastern Africa, Gulf of Aden, Oman Sea, South-Asia, Southeast Asia, and Australasia. It also includes a number of regional organisations, such as ASEAN, GCC, SAARC, and SADCC.

An Economic Community of Nations

For many centuries, the countries, economies and peoples of the Indian Ocean have been bound together in an informal, cooperative economic community. Traders, seamen, fishermen, and pilgrims traversed the Indian Ocean and its numerous ports, enabling a vibrant trading network to emerge.

Impact of De-Colonisation

After the Second World War, the decolonisation process ended British hegemony in the Indian Ocean. Superpower rivalry in the region escalated, due to the strategic importance of the area. The common historical experience of European imperialism had left a lasting impression on the leaders of states in the Indian Ocean region - of a sense of shared identity. The rediscovery of the past littoral economic, social and cultural community, of an ocean-centric regional co-operative grouping serving as a bridgehead between Africa, Asia and Australasia, therefore seemed only natural.

In 1995, during a visit to India, President Nelson Mandela stated that "the natural urge of the facts of history and geography should broaden itself to include the concept of an Indian Ocean Rim for socio-economic co-operation and other peaceful endeavors. Recent changes in the international system demand that the countries of the Indian Ocean shall become a single platform."

The Mighty Indian Ocean

he Indian Ocean is the world's third largest Ocean. It carries half of the world's container ships, one third of the bulk cargo traffic, two-thirds of the world's oil shipments. It is a lifeline of international trade and economy. The region is woven together by trade routes and commands control of the major sea-lanes. The Indian Ocean Rim constitutes between a quarter and a third of the world's population (close to two billion) which makes it a massive market. It is rich in strategic and precious minerals and metals and other natural resources, valuable marine resources ranging from food fisheries to raw material and energy for industries. It has abundant agricultural wealth in terms of the variety and mass of arable land and has significant human resources and technological capabilities. Many countries of the Rim are becoming globally competitive and are developing new capacities, which can be jointly harnessed through regional co-operation efforts.

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