What Was the Indian Ocean Maritime System?

indian-ocean-maritime-system Credit: Travelbag Ltd/CC-BY 2.0

The Indian Ocean Maritime System refers to a network of trade between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. The trade network started in the third millennium BCE. The main participants in the trade network were Egyptians, Indians, Portuguese, Chinese and Africans. The trade was initiated by the early inhabitants of the Indus valley who started to interact with the inhabitants of Mesopotamia, exchanging spices with their trade partners.

At this time, oceanic navigation and trade was well-advanced. The Indus valley was among the first destinations for trade voyages, partly due to sea conditions that favored voyages, explains the Government of India. Besides spices, traders from the Indus valley traded in copper, hardwoods, ivory, pearls, carnelian and gold. The Indian Ocean Maritime System not only played a historical role, but also helped establish the West-East connections in modern society. In addition to trade, the system promoted the interaction and sharing of cultures and civilizations among regions as far as Zanzibar and Mombasa. The system also allowed people from both East and West to interact via the seas rather than being limited to interaction with only the people nearest to them, thus spreading civilization and trade through new sections of the world.