Great Power Competition and U.S. Strategy in the Indian Ocean Region



David Brewster,
Senior Research Fellow at National Security College, Australian National University

Shehzi Khan,
Senior Policy Advisor in the Strategic Planning and Policy Directorate, Indo-Pacific Command

Nilanthi Samaranayake,
Director of Strategy and Policy Analysis Program, CNA

Arzan Tarapore - Moderator,
South Asia Research Scholar, Stanford University

Date and Time

October 29, 2020 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM


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This event is Co-Sponsored by the Center for South Asia (CSA)

How are India and the United States responding to the growing political and military power of China in the Indian Ocean region? India has traditionally sought to maintain strategic preeminence in the region and sees its influence as being increasingly contested. The United States sees the region as an integral part of the wider “Indo-Pacific,” defined by intensifying strategic competition with China. Military planners at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command are refining their strategy in the region, including their approach to mitigating security risks and deepening the U.S. Major Defense Partnership with India, alongside other allies and partners. In this off-the-record webinar, the Command’s senior policy advisor and two leading experts on the Indian Ocean will share their assessments of the key strategic challenges facing India and the United States in the region.


David BrewsterDavid Brewster is a Senior Research Fellow at the National Security College at the Australian National University, where he focuses on security in India and the Indian Ocean region, and Indo-Pacific maritime affairs. His books include India as an Asia Pacific Power, about India’s strategic role in the Asia Pacific, India’s Ocean: the Story of India’s Bid for Regional Leadership, which examines India’s strategic ambitions in the Indian Ocean, and the edited volume, India and China at Sea: Competition for Naval Dominance in the Indian Ocean. He is the author of several reports, including The Second Sea, which examines Australia’s role in the Indian Ocean proposes a new roadmap for Australia’s strategic engagement in that region. Brewster holds a PhD from the Australian National University.

Shezi KhanShehzi Khan is the Senior Policy Advisor in the Strategic Planning and Policy Directorate at Indo-Pacific Command, supporting senior leadership on key regional policy initiatives.  Ms. Khan served on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, as Executive Officer to the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, and as senior South Asia analyst at the State Department.  Ms. Khan briefed the President of the United States in 2013.  She has been posted in Pakistan, China, and New Zealand and also lived and worked in India, Egypt, and France. Ms. Khan speaks five foreign languages and holds an MBA in International Finance and an MA in International Relations.  She is a recipient of the National Intelligence Superior Service Medal and was named State Department’s Analyst of the Year in 2014.

Nilanthi SamaranayakeNilanthi Samaranayake directs the Strategy and Policy Analysis Program at CNA. She has led several studies on Indian Ocean and South Asia security. Recently Samaranayake has worked on U.S.-India naval cooperation, water resource competition in the Brahmaputra River basin, and Sri Lankan foreign policy. She also has conducted research on the navies of Bangladesh and Pakistan, the Maldives Coast Guard, security threats in the Bay of Bengal, and relations between smaller South Asian countries and China, India and the United States. Prior to joining CNA, Samaranayake held positions at the National Bureau of Asian Research and the Pew Research Center. Samaranayake holds an M.Sc. in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a B.A. in International Studies from American University.

Arzan TaraporeArzan Tarapore (Moderator) is the South Asia research scholar at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University, where he leads the newly-restarted South Asia research initiative. He is also a senior nonresident fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research. Tarapore’s research focuses on Indian military strategy and contemporary Indo-Pacific security issues. This includes a forthcoming paper on “Building Strategic Leverage in the Indian Ocean Region.” He previously held research positions at the RAND Corporation, the Observer Research Foundation, and the East-West Center in Washington. Prior to his scholarly career, he served as an analyst in the Australian Defence Department. Tarapore holds a PhD in war studies from King’s College London.


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