Lead the Fight Against Climate Change and Transnational Crime in the Indian Ocean

Notes to the New CNO Series

By Commander Amila Prasanga, Sri Lankan Navy

There are vital Indian Ocean insights regarding island states, strategic vulnerabilities related to transnational crime caused by climate change, and the usefulness of U.S. naval operations that merit the next CNO’s (Chief of Naval Operations) attention. These insights align with the commitment to ensuring the U.S. Navy remains the preeminent global fighting force and a trusted defender of rules-based order.

Island states in the Indian Ocean region face unique geopolitical and environmental challenges. Their limited landmass, vulnerability to rising sea levels, and dependence on maritime resources create a delicate equilibrium that can be disrupted by climate change. It is essential to recognize that these states often find themselves in the crosshairs of great power competition, making them susceptible to both geopolitical pressures and environmental threats. Understanding their circumstances and forging partnerships based on mutual interests and security is crucial.

Climate change is transforming the security landscape in the Indian Ocean. It is having a profound impact in fomenting transnational maritime crimes, particularly illegal fishing, human smuggling, drug trafficking, and piracy. Island states are specifically vulnerable to these crimes, which often exploit their maritime boundaries and limited capacity. Recognizing these strategic vulnerabilities and their potential to destabilize the region is paramount.

The U.S. Navy’s enduring commitment to maintaining rules-based order is commendable. In the context of the Indian Ocean and its challenges, it is imperative to adapt U.S naval operations to address transnational threats driven by climate change. This includes enhancing maritime domain awareness, fostering regional cooperation, and developing capabilities for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) operations. Additionally, considering the dynamic nature of these challenges, agility and innovation must be integral to U.S. Navy readiness.

The U.S. Navy’s global reach extends to the Indian Ocean, where it operates alongside allies and partners. Strengthening these relationships is essential to ensuring regional stability. Collaborating with regional maritime forces, international organizations, and island states can bolster the U.S. Navy’s collective ability to address security challenges arising from climate change.

As the next CNO leads U.S. naval operations into this decisive decade, I request that they closely consider the intricate web of challenges and opportunities presented by the Indian Ocean region. It is a space where U.S. naval power can make a significant difference, not only in terms of security, but also in fostering stability, prosperity, and resilience among island states. By acknowledging these complexities and acting with foresight, the U.S. Navy can continue to be the world’s most powerful force, securing U.S. interests and promoting peace across the seas.

Commander Amila Prasanga is Military Research Officer at the Institute of National Security Studies, the premier Sri Lankan think tank on national security, established and functioning under the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence. The opinions expressed are his own and are not necessarily reflective of the views of the institute or the Ministry of Defence.

Featured Image: Aerial photo taken on May 5, 2021 shows the Colombo Port City in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Photo via Xinhua)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.