The Indian Ocean Transcendence: Pakistan Navy’s Role

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By Ali Basit

In Global politics, security dynamics may often change and explicitly requires a workable mechanism in order to address them accordingly. When we look at Indian Ocean Region (IOR), we may foresee many challenges that are immensely critical to maritime security of the region in particular and the globe in general. IOR is geologically youngest and physically one of the most complex regions of the world.

Waters of this ocean carries approximately, half of the world’s container ships, one third of the world’s cargo traffic and two third of the world’s oil shipments, thus making it to be a lifeline of international trade and economy.

Pakistan Navy has been known for playing an eminent role in promotion of strategic stability, peace and development in the IOR with exceptional focus on Arabian Sea fringing Pakistan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and extensive continental shelf.

Taking a modest start at its inception, Pakistan Navy developed into a mature navy competing with the challenges of technology and globalization. It has seen transformation in its interests to comply by the progressive requirements of its coastal defense and unleashed its imperative role at global level by being tied to strings of collaborative efforts synergized by multinational navies in the IOR.

Notwithstanding the dynamic role of Pakistan Navy at home, to keep at multinational cooperation, Pakistan Navy always stand by the international obligation to ensure security in the maritime environment while being a part of Multinational Combined Task Force 150 (CFT 150), Coalition Maritime Campaign Plan (CMCP) or Counter Piracy Deployment (CPD), thereby contributing to stability and prosperity on a regional and a global level. In order to strengthen interoperability and global efforts of maritime forces, Pakistan Navy commenced sixth of its multinational exercise AMAN (together for peace) in Feb, 2019, where 46 Navies of the world participated.

This was marked as a blue diplomacy move by Pakistan Navy bringing together Maritime Nations in the IOR and calling for galvanizing efforts to maintain strong correlations at sea.

Realizing the significance of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf, extended over 50,000 sq. kms, Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) under the ambit of Pakistan Navy, pursuing the effective patrolling mechanism to mitigate the risks of piracy and smuggling in the North Arabian Sea. However, PMSA is contributing its due share but still urgency is required to synergize other related departments under Pakistan Navy, so as to conclude their maritime operations effectively.

With growing security dimensions also comes the need to ensure economic power concerning most of the trade and energy security. Need of the hour is to devise a coastline strategy that must put special emphasis on socio-economic factors, unless we don’t put our efforts in this direction, we will not be able to culminate yet a firm maritime security paradigm.

Surprisingly we stand among the top 20 countries having a longest coast line in the world, stretching over 1050 kms. Though we are just focusing on CPEC that connects Kashgar to Gwadar and opens up into the North Arabian Sea, however we must look beyond this, exploring and developing the rest of the coastal line, acknowledging the fact that Pakistan is by default a maritime nation.

Is IOR just about sea lanes and trade? Yet there is more to this, about half of world’s conflicts are presently located in the IOR. Regional powers are competing for strategic developments, piracy incidents are erupting around the Horn of Africa, and major powers deployed substantial military forces in IOR, thus aggressive soft power diplomacy is transforming the entire regions dynamics, turning IOR from non-conflict to conflict zone.

Hope resides in the possibility that Regional powers will perceive the economic momentum in IOR, unleashing by the blue economy cooperation and integration, as a strategic opportunity rather than a challenge. Participation of Maritime nations could transform IOR into a globally beneficial enterprise.

This may offer an incentive of a cooperative, knowledge driven future of growth and prosperity and therefore, US, China, and other powers, including India, ultimately would be wise to opt for ‘win-win ‘cooperation rather than ‘lose-lose’ confrontation in the IOR.

To sum up, Pakistan Navy must also attach itself with the high importance of strategic development of its coastline along with the sidelines of security parameters. Continuation to its regional and global engagement for enduring strategic stability in the IOR, will undoubtedly aid Pakistan Navy in emerging as a strong and robust force of the region.