This paper explores the implications of the tectonic shifts in the global balance of power marked by the rise of China and India and the relative decline of American hegemony across the Indian Ocean region – bordered as it is by five continents and some 40 countries. Located at the Middle Eastern end of it are the strategic chokepoints of the Bab al-Mandab and the Strait of Hormuz, and at the Asian end the Strait of Malacca. However, while the Middle East and Asia are ever more interconnected across this third-largest ocean (and also along the reviving terrestrial ‘Silk Road’) through trade, finance and culture, the paper does not foresee an imminent confrontation in the Middle East between the rising Asian superpowers and the United States. Nonetheless, it is contended that President Barack Obama's dramatic ‘rebalancing’ project indicates that America intends to intensify its support for the small Asian states worried about China's assertiveness in the East and South China seas, while at the same time insisting that this ‘pivot’ does not mean a diminution of US power in the Middle East. For the time being, it seems that China and India are content to remain ‘free riders’ in the Middle East, uninterested in challenging the United States.

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