The Indian and South Atlantic Oceans have both been named by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) as zones of peace, on 16 December 1971 and 27 October 1986, respectively. These regions are home to developing countries which are playing increasingly significant roles on the world geopolitical stage. Brazil and India, the two countries at the core of our conference, are imperative to shaping our understanding of these regions. Both are countries with longstanding partnerships in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group, the IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) Dialogue Forum and G20.
Brazilian interests in the South Atlantic
At the conference, we explored Brazil’s interests in the South Atlantic which have encompassed the promotion of peace and cooperation and a commitment to nuclear disarmament, whilst simultaneously pursuing the strengthening of its naval, military, and diplomatic position in the region. Current security challenges in the South Atlantic region also include the rise in piracy and drug-trafficking in the Gulf of Guinea as well as the presence of extra-regional actors – China, in particular.
We discussed how the Zone of Peace and Cooperation of the South Atlantic (ZOPACAS), once viewed predominantly as an instrument to maintain peace in the South Atlantic region and further diplomatic and defence cooperation, is now firmly part of Brazil’s defence agenda. The ZOPACAS ministerial meeting held in Mindelo, Cape Verde, in April 2023, albeit delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, can hopefully now serve to address these regional security concerns and combat current threats to peace in the South Atlantic.
The Indian Ocean Region as a global geopolitical focus
The concentration of the major emerging economies of the 21st century in Asia has made this region a global geopolitical focus. In this context, the Indian Ocean Region represents one of the main crossroads of energy and trade exchanges between major producing countries and advanced economies.
Parallel to this economic shift, the rise of China as a geopolitical player has led to a series of tensions that dovetail with the need to give the Indian Ocean a more coherent governance framework. Here, India plays a major role. Not only is it the largest country and the most important economy in the region but it is also the actor that has made geopolitical activism the visiting card of its foreign policy in the new century.
With India's participation, a new regional order based on mini-lateral initiatives has seen it step into the institutional vacuum to address security and governance issues. Initiatives such as the Quad, the BRICS, and bilateral initiatives with many African countries marked this new direction.
During the conference, we explored each of these concepts, identifying commonalities and differences in the workings of India and Brazil as new emerging regional actors. We hope that the insights gained from this seminar will be of value to policymakers, academics, and business leaders who want to gain a better understanding of the complexities and opportunities in these regions.