Now how is this important and what relevance could it have for Iran?
The Indian ocean is very important body of water and has been historically a scene of great play during the period of European exploration of Colonialism. At present there is an intense power play at shores that are not so distant from Iran. Because of it's geographic location and the relations it has with it's neighbors, India is heavily dependent on it's sea lanes. Similarly, Chinese trade passes through the Indian Ocean when linking China with Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Other powers vying for control in this locality are the the US and UK (centered around Diego Garcia) as one coalition alongside France on a lesser level.
China's case recently has become more interesting given the much talked about "String of Pearls" or Chinese bases/ installations in the Indian Ocean. China is developing military bases and diplomatic ties from the Middle East to the South China Sea in order to protect its oil shipments and strategic interests, according even to Chinese internal reports. The "String of Pearls" strategy includes:
1) A new naval base under construction at the Pakistani port of Gwadar;
2) Naval bases in Myanmar;
3) A military agreement with Cambodia;
4) Strengthening ties with Bangladesh;
5) An ambitious plan under consideration to build a $20 billion canal in Thailand to bypass the Strait of Malacca.
String of Pearls: Sea lanes from Persian Gulf, through Indian Ocean, Straits of Malacca, and up the South China Sea
Makes good strategic sense as over 80 percent of China's energy supplies travel through the Malacca Strait. There is a lot of argument about their ability to project power over the Taiwan Strait. I don't think anyone would say that they can currently project enough sea power to protect their shipping lanes. There Much talk about an aircraft carrier but that will be years away from being operational but the underlying issue is that the strategy is in place.
In the Indian perspective, this is an attempt to encircle India.
China's String of Pearls: Ports/Navy Bases Under Construction
Given the conflicting stance of India and Pakistan, the situation becomes a bit more tricky for the US. India and the US have been developing closer ties with China seeing this as a US devised measure to use India as a counter-weight. Pakistan will find this very hard to swallow and, while the US needs India more over the medium term, it needs Pakistani cooperation at present to fight for the Taliban and to stabilize Afghanistan.
The Chinese are bound to see this as a step in an encriclement policy. That may be unavoidable, but let us face reality. India sees China surrounding her. China sees the US cobbling together a stealth NATO to surround her. For China’s part, see this description by one researcher at the Army War College:
The “String of Pearls” describes the manifestation of China’s rising geopolitical influence through efforts to increase access to ports and airfields, develop special diplomatic relationships, and modernize military forces that extend from the South China Sea through the Strait of Malacca, across the Indian Ocean, and on to the
Arabian Gulf (Wrong term used, its called the Persian Gulf).
How does all of this power-play have a bearing on Iran? We will have to wait and see. Iran is beset by issues more closer to it's immediate vicinity and internal affairs but the Indian Ocean and it's politics have a bearing on Iran nonetheless. Where Iran finds itself will be more visible in the coming years in this regard.