An article prepared for the [Los Angeles Times] Opinion section. Although a map of the Indian Ocean may give the impression of a self-contained geographic entity, this leads to oversimplification of the complex political relations that exist. Further, a viewpoint focused on the ocean itself is misleading in that it overemphasizes a naval strategic point of view to the exclusion of important political considerations. The Indian Ocean area in fact contains at least five important sub-areas whose diverse cultures, varying strategic positions, and different economic levels preclude any cohesive political or cultural integration. After discussing Soviet and U.S. maritime and political activity in the area, as well as Chinese Communist political interests, the author concludes that no single policy will suffice in either the strategic or the diplomatic aspects of international competition in the Indian Ocean area. To avoid a costly and counter-productive competitive naval buildup in the Indian Ocean, it is suggested that the United States actively seek a naval arms limitation agreement, with appropriate safeguards. 6 pp.