As Japan makes its move in the Indian Ocean power play what will be the future of the Blue Economy?

It’s becoming more and more evident that the trajectory of Seychelles’ Blue Economy is heavily dependant on geopolitics in our region. Who the big regional players are and whether they are advocates of sustainability and equity (2 key pillars of the Blue Economy) will be determining factors in the take-off or crash and burn of the Blue Economy.

As Seychelles signed up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative this week, against the background of its controversial decision to allow India to develop a naval base on Assumption island, it becomes the latest Indian Ocean nation to stumble into the power play of these 2 super- powers in this region.

Now, Japan has signaled that Tokyo is wading into the Indian Ocean, with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera’s groundbreaking trip to Sri Lanka this week.

Japan has a strategic interest in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port. It reflects its “free and open seas” policy, which calls for a rules-based maritime system to ensure stability and prosperity.

Japan is looking to close ranks with India and Singapore and also develop Sri Lanka’s northeastern port of Trincomalee, the world’s second-deepest natural harbor, as a counterweight to China.

It’s therefore not a coincidence that Japan has this week officially announced it’s intention to open an Embassy in Seychelles.

Seychelles, and other smaller countries, which walked a tightrope between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War must prepare for another difficult balancing act as larger countries continue to move into this (once again) strategically important region.

Let us hope that the Blue Economy will not be sacrificed on the altar of geopolitical expediency.

Author: Dr. Nirmal Shah

Nirmal is a well-known and a passionate personality in the Seychelles environmental and sustainability scene having an encyclopedic knowledge of Seychelles biodiversity as well as a wealth of experience in environment management. He has worked in senior positions in the parastatal, government, private and NGO sectors and consulted for international organizations such as the World Bank, IUCN, UNEP, Sida and UNESCO. He has appeared on CNN, BBC, Radio France, PBS, NBC, ABC, SABC and others

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