Indian Ocean and South Asia Security

CNA analysts who work on Indian Ocean and South Asia security issues draw upon in-country data sources, policy and operational insights, and rigorous methodological approaches. As recognized experts, they have traveled extensively in the region and are in contact with members of strategic communities in these countries. Recommendations given by CNA analysts to policymakers are actionable and anticipate a range of outcomes, across multiple timeframes.

Our work on the Indian Ocean region and South Asia has focused on navy-to-navy relations, security cooperation, crisis response operations, water security, and maritime legal disputes. Increasing areas of focus for CNA analysts include allied and partner interests in the Indian Ocean and non-traditional security issues such as illegal fishing and human trafficking.

Indian Ocean and South Asia Security reports


In the News

April 1, 2019

In an article about the CNA study, Nuclear Arms Control Without A Treaty? Risks and Options after New START, Vince Manzo says, "Increased opacity between U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces would unfold within the broader context of growing mistrust and diverging perceptions about strategy, intentions, and perceptions."

Reuters: "Treaty's End Would Give U.S., Russia Impetus to Make More Nukes: Study"

April 1, 2019

In a new report, CNA's Vince Manzo analyzes the future of nuclear arms control without a treaty. As of today, there is just one nuclear arms control treaty in place between the U.S. and Russia – New START – and it is uncertain if President Trump or Vladimir Putin are willing to extend or renew the current treaty, set to expire in 2021. Read more.

January 1, 2019

Nilanthi Samaranayake writes, “Sri Lanka, at present, is rebounding from an unprecedented political crisis. The episode, in part, brought into focus the country’s debt crisis. While Colombo has never defaulted on loan, it owes billions of dollars to foreign lenders that are coming soon by 2023.”

Observer Research Foundation: “Hambantota: Critical Node in the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor?”

December 29, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake says, “The U.S. logistics hub concept makes sense in Sri Lanka due to geography.”

Nikkei Asian Review: “China and U.S. Play the Great Game in South Asia”

November 9, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake says, “It's hard to imagine President Sirisena did not foresee the international reaction to his decision. The international community is now watching and waiting to see what will happen next, especially when parliament reconvenes.”

Nikkei Asian Review: “Sri Lanka's Crisis Deepens as Parliamentary Speaker Cries ‘Coup’”

October 29, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake says that the presence of two centers of power in Colombo meant policies would not be “as streamlined as they could be, especially on clear messaging to India.”

South China Morning Post: “What Rajapaksa’s Return Means for China-India Tug of War Over Sri Lanka”

October 8, 2018

According to CNA report The U.S.-India Defense Relationship, “In the case of the P-8Is, the absence of secure voice, Link-11, and Link 16 prevented Indian aircraft from participating in secure voice networks or having a common tactical picture during exercises or other operations with U.S. forces or other regional forces that that operate over these voice and data links.”

The Geopolitics: “India-US COMCASA: Some Details on Technology Sharing”

October 2, 2018

"When China looks at South Asia it sees opportunity in countries such as Sri Lanka or Bangladesh, which may be a 'connectivity bandwagon' for international trade – from transshipping automobiles to bunkering fuel for tankers and cargo carriers, Nilanthi Samaranayake, an analyst at CNA on China and Indo-Pacific Security, said at the event."

USNI News: “Panel: Chinese Investments to Boost Trade Come as U.S. Commercial Shipping in Decline”

October 1, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake says, “The more that the U.S. can offer Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and other countries in the region in terms of trade and infrastructure, the less they have to rely on China."

CSIS: “China's Belt and Road at Five” [Panel begins at 17:00]

September 24, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake writes, “Even without overseas bases, the Indian Navy retains extensive access arrangements in ports throughout the Indian Ocean.”

UPenn Center for the Advanced Study of India: “Asian Basing in Africa: India’s Setback in Seychelles Could Be Worse”

September 23, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake says, “If President Yameen loses, China will be able to work with the next leader, as it has shown in the case of Sri Lanka after the 2015 election.”

The New York Times: “Maldives Opposition Declares Election Victory”

September 11, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake says that China’s plans in the plantation sector are likely “to aid Sri Lanka’s goal of increasing its sagging exports through investment in the rubber industry.”

The Diplomat: “China Expands Its Footprint in Sri Lanka”

August 10, 2018

“The two-day dialogue was a collaborative initiative between KDU and the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA), USA. This year’s Track 1.5 Dialogue focused on how bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and the USA could be further improved in a variety of spheres and how the global security concerns are influencing the relations between the two countries.”

Daily News: “Lanka-U.S. Naval Cooperation Strengthens”

July 25, 2018

Vice Adm. Michael Franken, Nilanthi Samaranayake, and Alexander Powell participated in a bilateral discussion in Sri Lanka about naval and maritime issues in the Indo-Pacific.

Kotelawala Defence University: 3rd Annual KDU-CNA Dialogue

July 18, 2018

Michael McDevitt writes in chapter 7, “On any given day, the PLA Navy (PLAN) has an average of between 4-5 warships (including on occasion a submarine) and two support vessels, organized into two independent Task Forces, operating somewhere in the Indian Ocean.”

The Sasakawa Peace Foundation: “Policy Recommendations by the Quadripartite Commission on the Indian Ocean Regional Security”

July 18, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake writes in chapter 5, “The Indian Ocean is the lifeline of the world’s economy. Half of all container traffic transits this body of water, and 30% of the world’s trade flows through its ports.”

The Sasakawa Peace Foundation: “Policy Recommendations by the Quadripartite Commission on the Indian Ocean Regional Security”

July 18, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake and Michael McDevitt participated in the International Conference on Security of the Indian Ocean Region and contributed to policy recommendations for a more stable security environment in the region.

The Sasakawa Peace Foundation: “Policy Recommendations by the Quadripartite Commission on the Indian Ocean Regional Security”

July 5, 2018

Satu Limaye says, “On the one hand, China is part of major elements of the international order such as the UN and WTO. On the other, it is pursuing new efforts such as Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and BRI that offer different models, tools and institutions that have mixed responses and results.”

Khmer Times: “The Effects of Global Politics on Cambodia and Asia-Pacific”

July 1, 2018

Mark Rosen writes, “Diego Garcia has been a refuge for mariners for centuries because of the availability of freshwater and ample fish and has been a valued military installation since World War II.”

The National Interest: “How Diego Garcia Can Play a Pivotal Role in America's Relationship with India”

June 8, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake and Satu Limaye write, “China can pursue its ‘long game’ in the Himalayas because India, for both military and diplomatic reasons, hasn’t pushed back hard.”

War on the Rocks: “Doklam, One Year Later: China’s Long Game in the Himalayas”

June 8, 2018

CNA analysts Satu Limaye and Mary Ellen Connell discussed Indonesia’s maritime interests with Dr. Rizal Ramli, founder of ECONIT Advisory Group and former Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs under President Joko Widodo.

May 4, 2018

Eric Thompson, Rear Adm. Michael McDevitt, Satu Limaye, Nilanthi Samaranayake, and Adm. William Fallon attend a bilateral discussion on power-plays and responses of the U.S., China, India, and Japan within the Indo-Pacific.

National Maritime Foundation: 9th NMF-CNA Bilateral Dialogue

April 17, 2018

Michael McDevitt says, "China is pursuing a 'places, not bases,' strategy."

Foreign Policy: "One Belt, One Road, One Happy Chinese Navy"

April 12, 2018

Michael McDevitt says, "The Soviets sought naval access arrangements with nations around the western Indian Ocean, just as China is doing today."

CNA: "Is the Past Prologue in the Indian Ocean?"

April 12, 2018

A new CNA analysis looks back at the Cold War to gain insights on the future of the Indian Ocean. Read more.

March 7, 2018

Michael McDevitt, Catherine Lea, Douglas Jackson, and Nilanthi Samaranayake participated in the 5th Annual RSIS-CNA Workshop on East Asian Maritime Issues in Singapore.

RSIS: "Indo-Pacific Maritime Issues: Connectivity, Balance and Cooperation"

January 31, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake says, “Smaller Indian Ocean countries are getting sucked into a discourse about strategic competition. We’re increasingly seeing the politicization of infrastructure, especially in maritime domain.”

American Center New Delhi: Panel Discussion on Maritime Security in the Indo-Pacific

January 18, 2018

Admiral James Foggo III writes, “The strong relationship between the U.S. and France is a natural “fit” for us to lead and promote the tenets of maritime security and greater freedom of navigation throughout the Indian Ocean.”

CNA: Statement on U.S.- France Naval Cooperation

January 18, 2018

At a CNA roundtable, Nilanthi Samaranayake and Mary Ellen Connell discussed France's strategic interests in the Indian Ocean region with Dr. Iskander Rehman of the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy.

CNA: “CNA Roundtable Proceedings: France’s Strategic Interests in the Indian Ocean”

December 21, 2017

CNA study The Future of U.S.-India Naval Relations recommends “a host of steps to address this challenge, including inviting Indian Navy liaisons to U.S. Central Command and Africa Command, discussing cooperation outside of PACOM at the next Maritime Security Dialogue, and opening channels of communication on disaster response, non-combatant evacuation, anti-piracy, and maritime domain awareness outside of PACOM.”

Defense One: “Take Small Steps to Advance the U.S.-India Relationship”

December 2, 2017

Nilanthi Samaranayake says that India's leadership role in the Indian Ocean represents, "a security burden sharing" between India and the United States in the IOR.

The Island: "Indian Ocean Politics of the 21st Century –a View From Sri Lanka"

November 2, 2017

Nilanthi Samaranayake says "The Modi administration appears to have an open mind to altering participation in Malabar, suggesting the potential for Australia to join someday - not necessarily as a permanent member, but as a participant like Japan was before 2016."

Business Standard: "Bolder Now, India Showing More Risk Appetite in Its Relations with China"

October 10, 2017

On October 10, Eric Thompson spoke at the Galle Dialogue in Sri Lanka on “From the Outside Looking In: Creating Greater Maritime Visibility to Enhance Maritime Security.”

September 19, 2017

The National Interest publishes "Is Diego Garcia at Risk of Slipping From Washington's Grasp?" by CNA SVP Mark Rosen

September 18, 2017

CNA publishes Bangladesh v. India: A Positive Step Forward in Public Order of the Seas by CNA SVP Mark E. Rosen and analyst Douglas Jackson

July 17, 2017

The Straits Times quotes CNA analyst Nilanthi Samaranayake in “China’s First Overseas Naval Base Makes Waves in India”

June 26, 2017

CNA analyst Satu Limaye, Ph.D. moderated a panel on “The Launch of India Matters for America/America Matters for India” at the Hart Senate Office Building on June 26. Learn more.

June 20, 2017

CNA analyst Nilanthi Samaranayake spoke on a panel on “China’s ‘Belt and Road’ Plan, and Three Asian Neighbors” at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Watch the panel here.

June 12, 2017

CNA co-hosts a dialogue on Advancing India-U.S. Naval Cooperation.

National Maritime Foundation: NMF-CNA Dialogue

May 31, 2017

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace cites CNA’s “The Long Littoral Project: Bay of Bengalby CNA analyst Nilanthi Samaranayake and “Water Resource Competition in the Brahmaputra River Basin: China, India, and Bangladesh,” by CNA analysts Nilanthi Samaranayake, Satu Limaye, Ph.D. and Joel Wuthnow in “It’s Time to Deepen Integration Around the Bay of Bengal”

May 25, 2017

Forbes quotes CNA analyst Nilanthi Samaranayake in “India Should Either Come up with a Better Plan for Sri Lanka or Send a Thank You Note to China”

May 17, 2017

CNA analyst Nilanthi Samaranayake is a panelist at the Stimson event “Strategic Competition in Southern Asia: Arms Race or Modernization”

March 28, 2017

War on the Rocks publishes "Sri Lanka Is Not China’s Pearl in the Indian Ocean" by CNA analyst Nilanthi Samaranayake

March 25, 2017

Forbes quotes CNA analyst Nilanthi Samaranayake in "The Real Reasons Behind China’s Big Investments in Sri Lanka"

March 24, 2017

CNA analyst Satu Limaye, Ph.D. will speak at the seminar "Beyond the Island Dispute: Democracy, Regionalism, and Global Politics in Southeast Asia" on Friday, March 24 at Boston University

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