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Sunday May 19, 2024

Pakistan’s blue economy

By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani
December 15, 2023

I recently attended the week-long maritime security workshop (MARSEW-6) organized at PN War College under the auspices of the Pakistan Navy.

The session concluded yesterday (Dec 14), and I now intend to share my thoughts on the stability of our national economy in the context of the defence services of the Pakistan Navy.

Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur (L) and Tughril (R) take part in the multinational naval exercise AMAN-23 in the Arabian Sea near Karachi on February 13, 2023. — AFP
Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur (L) and Tughril (R) take part in the multinational naval exercise 'AMAN-23' in the Arabian Sea near Karachi on February 13, 2023. — AFP

Seven decades after Independence, the Pakistan Navy is still considered as one of the most dominant naval forces in the world and references to the Pakistan Navy are occasionally made in the international media.

However, in my view, the technique of warfare has changed completely in the 21st century. Today’s modern wars are not traditionally limited to sea, air and land defence, but the nations that prove their worth in the economic field are declared the winners.

Pakistan’s coastline is more than 1,000 kilometres long. The Makran Coastal Highway along the Arabian Sea is considered to be the most beautiful structure, which is laced with attractive scenery. It is said that in ancient times, this route, connecting Karachi to Balochistan and then going all the way to the border of Iran, was also used by the armies of Greek conqueror Alexander the Great.

Hangul National Park is located on the coast of Makran in Balochistan on an area of 1,650 square kilometres. It was declared as a reserve park in 1988. At a distance of about 200 kilometres from Karachi, there is a holy temple of Hanglaj Mata, one of the holiest sites for the Hindu community all over the world.

Likewise, Gwadar has gained a prominent position in the context of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, while Ormara, Pisni and Turbat are also equipped with modern-day urban facilities to a large extent. Similarly, there are a number of tourist spots along the coast of Pakistan that are becoming the focus of people’s attention due to improvements in the overall security situation.

Today, if we look at our region, many countries are trying to promote maritime tourism to improve their national economy. A Asian Development Bank report says that the coastal and marine areas connected to the Bay of Bengal are significant for the economy of Bangladesh. Reportedly, the plan to facilitate Bangladeshi Hajj pilgrims from the coastal city of Chittagong to Saudi Arabia through a 32-story sea ship has been finalized.

Similarly, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced the establishment of a national maritime heritage complex near Mumbai. The Indian government has decided to start the world’s largest cruise megaproject on the Ganges River to promote maritime tourism. In this regard, 78 Maritime tourism spots have already been identified throughout the country.

I have noticed during my frequent visits to Canada, Europe and other countries that initially government agencies used to show interest by announcing attractive incentives to attract investors, and then the private business community came forward.

I believe that the Pakistan Navy is in the best position to introduce world-class projects at the current government level to strengthen the blue economy on Pakistan’s coastline. If coastal sites of Karachi, Gwadar and others succeed in getting the attention of international tourists, it will also strengthen the shipbuilding industry. According to my information, Karachi Shipyard is capable of manufacturing ships in four years. Presently, Pakistan has only thirteen ships.

Due to water tourism and international trade, we will be able to get large orders for shipbuilding. Such ‘Made in Pakistan’ ships could also be used in various commercial activities including tourism, cargo and oil delivery. Currently, Pakistan is paying $7 billion to foreign ships for maritime trade, and due to facilitating the local shipyard industry, a huge amount of money will be utilized in strengthening our economy.

By participating in the recent workshop organized by the Pakistan Navy, I have realized that there are many benefits to be gained by connecting Pakistan to other world countries by sea and by including maritime trade, investment in ports and developing waterways infrastructure in our national priorities.

If it happens, the arrival of foreign tourists by sea will not only project the positive image of Pakistan but also prove to be an important milestone for the stability of our national economy.

The writer is a former member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council. He tweets/posts @RVankwani