The Indian Ocean Region is one of the most sought after regions in the 21st century due to the abundance of resources and maritime trade. The region is witnessing the confluence of many regional and extra-regional powers, as it is increasingly being traversed by Chinese trade and supply of natural resources. The initiation of the Maritime Silk Road by the Government of China in October 2013, exposed the Indian Ocean for further trade and commercial activity. It also prompted other countries and regions to view this particular region as a relatively untapped area with further potential for development and engagement. Additionally, it also alerted the militaries of many countries of the potential security risks that could arise with increased commercial activity in the region. In this context, the problem researched in this study is: even though the 21st Century Maritime Silk Route (MSR) initiative is enshrined with the Five Core Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, it has raised many questions pertaining to regional and maritime security. As these security implications are still in their infancy, this study used Preventive Diplomacy as a means to relieve security concerns that were identified via the STEEP analysis tool. This study utilised a combination of primary and secondary sources of information. As a qualitative research study, the data gathered from these sources were thematically coded against the research questions to derive the analysis in this research. Whilst the IOR at large has existing mechanisms for countries to work with, security cooperation in this region is difficult due to historically based bias and suspicions. Therefore, ‘Common interests’ among partners need to be highlighted in a multilateral setting to enable countries to use a multilateral security framework to resolve issues. With the full implementation of the MSR, trade and commercial activities in the IOR will increase further. As the PRC is an integral partner in ensuring the security threats in the IOR are mitigated, it needs to identify how it can reduce its threat perceptions in the IOR, such as by concentrating on trade endeavours. In conclusion, the article argues Preventive Diplomacy needs to be utilised in mitigating future threats, as the Indian Ocean has gained and continues to gain a lot of international attention along with China’s MSR initiative.
Keywords: Indian Ocean Region, 21st Century Maritime Silk Route, Preventive Diplomacy, China