By Ubaid Ahmed*
The great exponent of sea power, the American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan, who died in 1914, is still read with attention by political leaders and their military advisers today. “Control of the sea,” he wrote in 1890, “by maritime commerce and naval supremacy, means predominant influence in the world; because, however great the wealth product of the land, nothing facilitates the necessary exchanges as does the sea.”
The seas and oceans are the principal empowering agents to make Earth home to mankind. They spread 75% of its surface and their physical, compound and natural properties make the marine condition basic to the presence of life in our planet. As pointed out by the United Nations, ‘our water, drinking water, climate, atmosphere, coastlines, quite a bit of our nourishment, and even the oxygen noticeable all around we inhale, are for the most part regulated and provided by the sea.
The Indian Ocean is an important ocean of the world. It comprises nearly one fifth of the entire oceans of world. In the west of Indian Ocean there lies Africa and Arabian Peninsula, to the north lies the Indian sub-continent while to east lies Australia. Pakistan is one of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean and claims its due share in Indian Ocean. The security imperatives and economic opportunities compel Pakistan to secure its wider interests in the Indian Ocean.
Pakistan has always played a positive and contributory role in promoting of regional integration and maintenance of order and peace in the Indian Ocean with special focus on North Arabian Sea (NAS) which encompass Pakistan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and extended continental shelf.
The importance of 1000km long coastline of Pakistan that extends from Sir Creek to Jiwani towards Iran is undeniable in many ways. While aligning with the foreign policy and other regional and international obligations of Pakistan, PN over the decades had undertaken certain very bold and far reaching initiatives. Exercise AMAN is one such example. PN calendar of activities also contain engagements with regional and extra regional counterparts like Exercise NASEEM-AL-BAHR with Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF), THAMAR-AL-THAYAB with Royal Navy of Oman (RNO) to name a few.
Notwithstanding Pakistan, has remained a very active and important member of Coalition Maritime Campaign Plan (CMCP) under the ambit of CTF-150 operating in Gulf of Oman (GOO) and NAS from 2004 till early 2018. Pakistan also actively participated in Counter Piracy Deployment (CPD) under CTF-151 in Gulf of Aden (GOA) from 2009 till late 2017. In the aftermath of the US policy shift after coming into power of President Donald trump and to amicably discharge the international obligation to maintain order and peace at sea and to have a watchful eye for any illegal activity in NAS, PN has embarked on a Pakistan-led Regional Maritime Security Patrol (RMSP) since 2018. PN envisions a regional cooperation based on equality and sharing of information and maritime policing resources.
However to enhance global cooperation and interoperability of maritime forces and to project a soft yet firm image of Pakistan, PN initiated holding of multinational biennial Exercise AMAN in 2007. The seventh exercise of AMAN series, Exercise AMAN-2019 is taking place in Karachi started on 8th February 2019. A sizeable number of surface ships, air assets, Marines and Special Operation Forces (SOF) and observers from about 83 countries are participating in the exercise.
The exercise is divided into two phases; the harbour phase which includes among other things a dynamic show of maritime air, Marines and SOF elements of Pakistan Navy. The main highlight of harbour phase is a Fleet Review which will held be off Karachi harbour at Manora. Surface combatants, Marines/SOF and air assets of PN will participate in the Fleet Review.
The sea phase will comprise of combined maneuvers of participating forces in Arabian Sea aimed at enhancing interoperability and learning from each other experiences and good practices. The mega event will end with an impressive cultural show and food gala in which all the participating nations will showcase their national culture and cuisine.
Pakistan is hosting the event in order to prove her maritime capability and strength and contribution in maintaining the peace worldwide. Pakistan is a peace desirous country and does not have belligerent designs against any other nation state or country. Just like land borders, there are issues at sea which relate to territorial waters, contagious zones, exclusive economic zones and continental shelf and Pakistan is desirous to resolve them all with its neighbors in accordance with international law and expects others to reciprocate in the same spirit. Complete agreements and engagements are needed with all the stakeholders in the region and such maritime activities and naval engagements array Pakistan’s yearnings for regional and global peace.
*Ubaid Ahmed, Independent Researcher, Islamabad. Can be reached at [email protected]