Robert Kaplan: Monsoon Asia's Rise

Kaplan says the Indian Ocean region “may comprise a map as iconic to the new century as Europe was to the last one.”

Indian villagers look out at the Bay of Bengal, south of Calcutta, 2010. (AP)

Our great American stories of exploration, trade and power celebrate the high Atlantic, the wide Pacific, and the American flowering in between. My guest today – scholar, traveler Robert Kaplan – says it’s time to think Indian, as in Indian Ocean.

The world’s new center of gravity, he says, is in “monsoon Asia” – a broad swath from the Horn of Africa through the flanks of Central Asia, to India, Southeast Asia and China.

President Obama is headed there next week, and not by accident. It is, says Kaplan, the future.

-Tom Ashbrook


Edward Luce, Washington bureau chief for the Financial Times, and former South Asia bureau chief for the FT.

Robert D. Kaplan, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, and national correspondent for The Atlantic. He’s author of thirteen books on foreign policy, geopolitics and religion. His latest is “Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power.” Read an excerpt from the book, and a recent opinion piece of his in the LA Times.

Here’s a bit from “Monsoon”‘s preface:

…It is my contention that the Greater Indian Ocean, stretching eastward from the Horn of Africa past the Arabian Peninsula, the Iranian plateau, and the Indian Subcontinent, all the way to the Indonesian archipelago and beyond, may comprise a map as iconic to the new century as Europe was to the last one. Hopefully, the twenty-first century will not be as violent as the twentieth, but, to a similar degree, it could have a recognizable geography. In this rimland of Eurasia— the maritime oikoumene of the medieval Muslim world that was never far from China’s gaze— we can locate the tense dialogue between Western and Islamic civilizations, the ganglia of global energy routes, and the quiet, seemingly inexorable rise of India and China over land and sea. For the sum-total effect of U.S. preoccupation with Iraq and Afghanistan has been to fast- forward the arrival of the Asian Century, not only in the economic terms that we all know about, but in military terms as well.

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