Looking south: Indian Ocean

Authored by: James R. Holmes

Handbook of India’s International Relations

Print publication date:  May  2011
Online publication date:  May  2011

Print ISBN: 9781857435528
eBook ISBN: 9780203828861
Adobe ISBN:


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As Indians gaze southward, they see the vastness of the Indian Ocean, an expanse criss-crossed by vital Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs) and teeming with traditional and non-traditional challenges. Indians appear conflicted about the sea. India was an inward-looking, decidedly terrestrial civilization for many centuries. Indeed, during the age of Hindu rule, Indian kings made a conscious choice to withdraw from the sea. They forbade oceanic voyages in the 14th century, ostensibly to prevent an outflow of mathematicians and philosophers to Baghdad, the intellectual centre of south-west Asia. The subcontinent ultimately fell under the rule of Central Asian nomads who imprinted their land-bound habits of mind on Indian traditions and culture, reinforcing Indians’ indifference to maritime matters.

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