“Whoever rules the waves, rules the world”– Alfred Thayer Mahan The Indian Ocean, the third-largest water body, has always remained a centre of gravity among different superpowers. Its geostrategic, economic and political significance has attracted many countries to control this region. Historically, various powers attempted to dominate this region, including the Chinese, Portuguese, Britain, Americans, and Indians. Similarly, the post-cold war world order is again seeing a rise in competition among major powers—the US, China, Russia, India, and Pakistan—in the Indian Ocean, owing to its vital aforementioned importance. Meanwhile, the nature of interests varies from state to state in the form of economics, geopolitics, and geostrategic levels. Significance of Indian Ocean The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world’s oceanic divisions with an area of 70.56 million kilometres. It consists of 36 states around its littoral belt and 11 hinterland states. Moreover, ; It also includes a variety of races, cultures, and religions. Along with these, the most important chokepoints i.e. the Suez Canal, the Strait of Hormuz, Bab-el-Mandeb, the Cape of Good Hope, the straits of Malacca are also part of this water body. Similarly, it is the home of four major world continents i.e. Asia, Australia, Africa, and Europe. Perhaps because of this, the IOR has been considered an arena of major power rivalry and global geopolitics. Major Competing Powers and their interests in the Indian Ocean 1. United States of America: A Status quo power The United States of America seems very sensitive to this region owing to its vast geo-economical and geopolitical significance. The US, being a superpower, seriously feels any alteration in the geostrategic configuration of this region by rising power China. The US has decided to contain the rising power of China in the Pacific and the Indian Oceans through different alliances and like-minded states. Moreover, the initiation of the Chinese-led Road and Belt Initiative (BRI) and its flagship program China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has materialized the perceived threat of the US. It is a reason that the US is utilizing its full energy to control the Indian Ocean region by itself or its allies. It is collaborating with Indian Ocean littoral states, particularly India, and also modernizing QUAD-in IOR. Moreover, it also intends to exert a carrot and stick policy towards Pakistan to become its ally in the region against China. To sum up, the US has major stakes in the Indian Ocean region against the rising power of China and it intends to detain China at any cost and maintain the status quo in the region as well in the world. 2. Peoples Republic of China: A Revisionist power China is perceived as a rising superpower in the world and a big challenge for the US and its allies. Indian Ocean region has direct vital importance for China mainly because its estimated more than 90 per cent of oil-importing travels in this region from the Middle East. IOR has also become significant for China because of its disputes in the South China Sea. US, with help of its allies, especially QUAD, is a big threat for China in the Pacific region therefore it wanted alternative routes through IO. It is one of the logics behind the initiation of BRI and CPEC, which can become natural and safe routes for Chinese imports all around the world. Moreover, BRI has wide outreach all over the world because it connects different continents through roads and maritime routes. As a major part of the BRI crosses through IOR, China must maintain control in the region. But a major limitation that hinders the ambitions of China is that it is not the natural part of this region, therefore, it has to depend on other states i.e. Pakistan. Thus, China considers IOR as the top priority because of BRI and to contain US strategies against her. 3. Russia: A Return to South Asia Russia’s “Return to South Asia” refers to cultivating warm relations with both Pakistan and India. Russia is also considered the major competitor in IOR owing to its historical legacy and domination. Russia under the leadership of its president Vladimir Putin is resurging and trying to enter the limelight of world politics. Therefore, Russia is approaching South Asia with special reference to India and Pakistan for economic and strategic reasons i.e. selling of weapons and other commercial commodities. Moreover, historically, Russia, the erstwhile USSR, has played a very crucial role during the cold war period as it was directly involved in the politics of this region. During the cold war, USSR and USA competed in Indian Ocean waters, their submarines carried out different missions against each other. Thus, Russian resurgence and return to the South Asian region ultimately will lead her to come to IOR which may cause implications for other regional actors. 4. India: An ambitious littoral state It is the major nuclear stakeholder littoral state in the Indian Ocean and it sees itself as the natural preeminent regional power in the Indian Ocean. India has treated the Indian Ocean as its “backyard”, instead, some maritime scholar believes it a ‘’front yard’’ owing to its geography, territory, and control. Moreover, India is cooperating with the US against China and Pakistan in maritime affairs. Similarly, it is modernizing its navy by adding aircraft carriers and launching of nuclear submarine Arihant, which has seriously threatened the nuclear configuration of the sub-continent region due to achieving second-strike nuclear capability. In a nutshell, Indian maritime ambitions in IOR can seriously shake the peaceful security environment of the Indian Ocean region and can lead to a big disaster as well. Implications on Pakistan 1. Strategic level Pakistan shares a 990km long coastline with the Arabian Sea and is among the major littoral states of IOR. Its Western coast adjacent to the Gulf makes it of strategic importance for providing the shortest, established, and secure sea route to the landlocked Central Asian Republics, East Asia, European and Pacific nations, Afghanistan, and the Western province of China via Gwadar Port. Furthermore, due to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and CPEC, the Indian Ocean assumes even greater significance for Pakistan. Meanwhile, Indian maritime ambitions to subdue the role of Pakistan through sabotaging CPEC can be a serious strategic security concern as well as a challenge for Pakistan. 2. Economic level Pakistan is heavily dependent on the Indian Ocean with about 95 per cent of its trade through the sea. Mostly its petroleum, oil, and lubricants supplies are also imported through the Arabian Sea. Moreover, the Gwadar Port also provides the facility of being a hub for oil and gas pipelines linking the Central Asian region, Middle East, Africa, and Europe as well through the Suez Canal. Any competition in IOR can either trigger a security threshold or hamper a peaceful economic environment that can directly impact Pakistan. Therefore, peace and safety in IOR are crucial for Pakistan. 3. Political level This major power competition in IOR has serious political implications for Pakistan. In this regard, it will be challenging for Pakistan to choose one side if the US-China rivalry gets worst in a given situation. Pakistan cannot leave China due to geography and economic ties whereas it also cannot straightly go against the US due to structural constraints i.e. IMF, FATF, and other financial regimes. Recommendations 1. A technologically advanced and highly equipped naval force has become a dire need of Pakistan. 2. The completion of CPEC and Gwadar Port should be enhanced without any further delay. 3. Pakistan should more focus on naval diplomacy as well as on the modernization of the naval force. The writer is a PhD scholar and works as an adjunct faculty at Bahria University Islamabad. He can be reached at: email@example.com.