Cornell University

"Evolving Strategic Contours in the Indian Ocean: A Sri Lankan Perspective" Professor Gamini Keerawella

Monday, September 25, 2017 at 12:15pm to 1:30pm

Uris Hall, G08
Central Campus

The Indian Ocean is a critical variable in defence-strategic thinking of its littorals throughout. However, its weight varies in line with the developments in the defence architecture and underlying strategic contours in the Indian Ocean. The naval strategic contours in the Indian Ocean underwent a fundamental change with the establishment of Portuguese thalassocracy in the 16th century. The decline of the Portuguese naval power paved the way for a naval competition among other European powers in the Indian Ocean. In the struggle for the mastery of the ‘Eastern waters’, the British emerged as the foremost naval and colonial power in the mid-18th century. Since the end of World War II, the strategic contours in the Indian Ocean has been undergoing a series of changes. The British naval withdrawal from the Indian Ocean ensued a naval competition between the United States and the Soviet Union in the Indian Ocean. With the end of the Cold War, maritime security of the Indian Ocean has once again entered a new phase. The regional strategic linkages that evolved in the Cold War context were dismantled while new strategic relationships in the region started to take shape. The rise of China and India and their acquisition of blue-water naval capabilities has ushered in a new strategic climate.  Today, the Indian Ocean has emerged as a critical geo-strategic space where the direction of global politics is decided. These developments are critically important to Sri Lanka. Hence, Sri Lanka needs to read the emerging strategic contours in the Indian Ocean from the perspective of its national interests as a small island situated in a central geo-strategic location in the Indian Ocean.


Professor Gamini Keerawella is the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington D.C. Prior to that, he was a senior professor in Modern History at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Windsor and the University of British Columbia, Canada. His doctoral thesis was on ‘The Superpower Naval Rivalry the Indian Ocean’. Professor Gamini Keerawella was a recipient of a number of fellowships: Fulbright Scholar-in Resident Award tenable in the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, USA (2013-2014), Japan Foundation Fellow at the Institute of Developing Economies in Tokyo (2003-04), Fulbright Fellow tenable at the University of California-Berkeley (1991-93), Senior Visiting Fellow at the University of Western Australia, Perth (1991). He has over 40 publications to his credit. His area of research includes peace and security in the Indian Ocean, regional security architecture and cooperation in South Asia, identity politics and post-colonial State formation in Sri Lanka. He also served as the Secretary, Ministry of Ethnic Affairs and National Integration and Mineral Resources Development (2001-2002), Founder Director of the National Integration Unit (1997-2000), Advisor to the President on Ethnic Affairs (2002-2005).



Event Type



Asian Studies, South Asia Program, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies




Free Admission

Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Valerie Foster Githinji

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Professor Gamini Keerawella

Speaker Affiliation

South Asia Program

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Available Upon Request

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Sachille Atapattu

Sachille Atapattu left a positive review 9/25/2017

Very insightful and contemporary. It was a great opportunity to meet an experienced diplomat.