By:¬†S M Hali
The maritime challenges for Pakistan are compounded by its strategic location. Situated at the confluence of three important regions of the world, namely Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia, being astride the Gulf of Oman and Strait of Hormuz, in close proximity to global energy highway, makes Pakistan a key regional state. The Strait of Hormuz – a strategic waterway – provides access to the energy-rich region of the Gulf, with nearly 35 percent of the total global oil consumption traversing the Strait daily.
Myriad threats complicate the security matrix in the Indian Ocean: piracy, maritime terrorism, human or drug trafficking and arms smuggling. The Pakistan Navy (PN), which has been entrusted to secure the maritime interests of Pakistan, endeavours to operate a potent navy capable of meeting its obligations, promote strong ties with its allies and contribute to nation building, particularly in the coastal areas.
Being cognisant of the fact that no nation or maritime power can meet the asymmetric challenges alone, the PN participates in various coalitions like the Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 and 151. The CTF 150 is a multinational coalition naval task force working under the 25 nation coalition of Combined Maritime Force (CMF) operating in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman. The CTF 151 is an international naval task force operating in the Gulf of Aden and off the eastern coast of Somalia covering 1.1 million square miles area.
In addition to active participation in international coalitions, the PN has taken a number of initiatives for collaborative maritime security. The multinational exercise Aman (peace) is one such initiative, which is being held biennially since 2007. AMAN 09 and 11, which were conducted with meticulous planning and preparation, brought out valuable lessons that have been incorporated in the latest of the series, AMAN 13, being executed in North Arabian Sea from March 4-8, 2013.
AMAN 13 is a manifestation of the PN‚Äôs interaction with regional and extra-regional navies to enhance interoperability and mutual understanding to jointly tackle the maritime threat numerated above. The navies of 50 countries have been invited to participate in the weeklong operations, along with their naval assets and observers. The concept of the exercise is designed to provide common forum for information sharing, mutual understanding and identifying areas of common interests; develop and practice response tactics, techniques and procedures against asymmetric and traditional threats during sea phase of the exercise and intermingling of multinationals with depiction of their respective cultures.
Alongside AMAN 13, the PN in conjunction with the National Centre of Maritime Policy Research (NCMPR) conducts international conferences on maritime issues. These intellectual encounters at NCMPR have become a hallmark of AMAN, since they provide the opportunity to have enriched discourses and provide a platform to promote maritime awareness in Pakistan, besides enhancing the country‚Äôs image in international fora.
The planners of AMAN 13 have not only provided impetus to joint planning and execution of operations, but also emphasised the objectives as display of united resolve against terrorism and crimes in maritime domain; contributing towards regional peace and stability; enhancing interoperability between regional and extra-regional navies, thereby acting as bridge between regions.
Multifarious activities at sea involving boarding drills, cross deck landing serial, helicopter landings, anti-surface warfare serials, including naval gun firings on target at sea, night encounter exercise and maritime interdiction operation, coordinated missile attacks exercise from missile boats and fighter aircraft, anti-submarine warfare exercise involving ships, helios and aircraft, an international fleet review including replenishment between ships while at sea, anti-piracy exercise, naval gun firings on target at sea and fly-past by aircrafts from various participating nations will immensely enrich the experience of the participating units.
An extraordinary feature is the utilisation of Special Operations Forces (SOF) through HVBSS Ops, SVBSS Ops, Static line and Freefall Water Jumps, Special Purpose Insertion and Extraction (SPIE) Ops, EOD Exercise, Maritime Counter Terrorist Exercise, ATT/Close Quarter Combat (CQC) Exercise, Frogman Exercise and VBSS Operations during MIO.
The successful execution of AMAN 13 is a significant demonstration of Pakistan‚Äôs commitment towards peace and stability through harmony and collaborative maritime security between navies of the occident and the orient. Nevertheless, maritime security exercises being organised and executed in Pakistan belie the propaganda that Pakistan is unsafe and teetering under terror attacks.
Simultaneously, the Indian navy has been conducting one of its biggest exercises, Tropex, in the Arabian Sea over the last 30 days, involving over 50 warships, including the new stealth frigates and nuclear-powered submarine INS Chakra, as well as 75 fighter jets, patrol aircraft and helicopters.
The writer is a former group captain of PAF, who also served as air and naval attach√© at Riyadh. Currently, he is a columnist, analyst and host of programme Defence & Diplomacy on PTV. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org