By Sher Bano*
Pakistan Navy has played its part to contribute towards national security. It has been working to secure the maritime boundaries of Pakistan while adopting a credible deterrence approach.
On July 13, 2020 the induction ceremony of Pakistan Navy Ship called Corvette PNS Yarmook took place at Karachi. In 2017, the Pakistan Ministry of Defence signed a contract with a Dutch Ship Manufacturing Company called Damen Shipyard to build two multipurpose OPVs (Offshore patrol vessels) — the PNS Yarmook is the first one and the second PNS Tabuk is yet under construction.
The CNS, Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi while speaking on the occasion stated that this is a significant milestone for the Pakistan Navy as the induction of this vessel will help Pakistan secure its maritime borders and this warship will act as a force multiplier enhancing Pakistan’s naval capability.
This newly inducted warship is a state of the art anti-ship, anti-submarine, electronic warfare platform that has a terminal defence system and advanced self-protection. It is also capable of performing various other maritime operations and can transport UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle) and helicopters simultaneously. In case of any special mission operations, it can accommodate two 20 foot equivalent Units and is also capable of launching two RHIBs (Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boats) at 6.5 meters and 11.5 meters at the same time. Damen has built about 40 vessels of the security and defence segment in the past which include several sophisticated vessels made for Royal Netherland Navy along with the flagship of Romanian Border Police and the Stefan cel Mare offshore patrol vessel, which shows that it is a highly capable and trustworthy international player for shipbuilding. It is also expected to deliver the second vessel named PNS Tabuk by the end of this year.
Historically, the role of Corvette was fighting minor wars, coastal patrols, and supporting large fleets. During World War II, the modern Corvette was introduced as a convoy escort vessel and easily built patrol. In the late 20th Century the modern navies started a trend of better maneuverability and smaller surface capability. Corvettes measure up to 55-128m (180-420 ft.) in length and have a displacement of 500-3000 tons long. They are armed with surface to air missiles, the surface to surface missiles, small and medium caliber guns and anti-submarine weapons. Modern Corvettes are also capable of accommodating of medium or small anti-submarine helicopters. India’s navy currently has four Corvettes of Kamorta class in its inventory. Hence Pakistan has been compelled to follow the same path. The newly inducted Corvette PNS Yarmook, though one in number, but given the limited resources it would likely add up a resort option. In the longer term, this would serve the purpose of enhancing the Pakistan Navy’s response capabilities.
With the expansion of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Pakistan about 350 nautical miles away from the coast, the area of responsibilities of the Pakistan Navy has increased. Moreover, with the development of the deep seaport of Gwadar as part of the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor), Pakistan is about to become a central trade platform, which India is continuously trying to derail. Unfortunately, India always tries to promulgate that CPEC is not economic cooperation, it is military cooperation.
However, it is the right of every state to protect its interests whether they are economic. This has increased India’s concerns and has led it to develop more advanced and sophisticated naval buildup. India believes that the development of the Gwadar port will prove hazardous for its interest in Central Asian states. Nonetheless, India’s long term dream for the blue water navy and gain control over the Indian Ocean region (IOR) continue to be a source of serious concerns for Pakistan’s maritime security.
Hence the induction of PNS Yarmook will help Pakistan to secure its sea lines and enhance sea-based defense and also to patrol more frequently. These warships will enable Pakistan to counter India’s naval developments and vested interest in the IOR more effectively. In the contemporary era, maritime security has a great significance for economic development as it is directly linked with the maritime economy of any state. Given the economic potential of Gwadar deep seaport, the Pakistan navy has to deal with future challenges arising from India. In this regard, PNS Yarmook being a technologically advanced vessel will boost up Pakistan Navy’s capabilities to deal with such challenges and to maintain peace and stability in the IOR.
The Pakistan Navy apart from protecting Pakistan’s maritime frontiers is also conducting peacetime missions such as bathymetry and hydrography. Pakistan has recently inducted PNSV BEHR MASAH to discover the undersea resources by performing oceanographic, hydrographic, and geographical surveys. It is believed that PNS Yarmook and PNS Tabuk along with guiding Pakistan’s maritime frontiers will help perform these peacetime missions without any external threats. Other than that, they will add more flexibility in performing regional maritime patrols in IOR and will act as a force multiplier for Pakistan Navy.
The writer is working as a Research Affiliate at the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), a non-partisan think-tank based out of Islamabad, Pakistan