Thursday June 13, 2024

Pakistan Navy in era of globalisation & new challenges

By Muhammad Azam Khan
March 26, 2019

Globalisation describes the era that is emerging from the shattered glacis of old Cold War divide. As a process of growing international activity in many areas, globalization is creating ever-closer ties, enhanced interdependence, and greater opportunity and vulnerability for all. Events at far corners of the earth are now affecting each other, countries and regions are being drawn closer together, key trends are interacting as never before, and the pace of change is accelerating. The 21stcentury is undeniably the first truly ‘Global Century’.

Maritime affairs in the age of globalization are becoming increasingly prominent in strategic calculus. Roughly 90 percent of the global trade is handled via the shipping industry and transferred to more than 4,000 ports worldwide, making these vital arteries responsible for handling goods worth more than $4 trillion annually. Small wonder then, maritime security was one of the first cornerstone areas to be addressed in the wake of the events of 11 September 2001.

According to renowned geographer Robert Kaplan, the Greater Indian Ocean, stretching eastward from the Horn of Africa past Arabian Peninsula, the Iranian plateau, and the Indian sub-continent, all the way to the Indonesian archipelago and beyond, may comprise a map as iconic to the new century as Europe was to the last one’. The Indian Ocean region includes 36 littoral and 11 hinterland states making a total of 47 independent states. The region is home to some 2.6 billion inhabitants making up 40 percent of the world population. It also accounts for 10 percent of the global GDP.

The littorals on the fringes of Indian Ocean boasts 80 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves and 17 percent of natural gas. Asia is projected to experience by far the world’s greatest surge in energy demand into the medium term. With more than a third of the world’s oil exports coming from the IOR and with the vast majority of known reserves in the Arabian Gulf sub region; energy-surplus nations’ have assumed increased importance in the global economic hierarchy.

The Indian Ocean is currently the world’s most important route for the movement of long-haul cargo. Thirty-three percent of global commerce and 50 percent of the world’s container traffic navigates on its highways. Here, too, are the principal oil shipping lanes, as well as main navigational choke points of world commerce; the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, Hormuz and Malacca. Forty percent of seaborne crude oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz at one end of the Ocean, and 50 per cent of the world’s merchant fleet capacity is hosted at the Strait of Malacca, at the other end making Indian Ocean the busiest and largest in terms of connecting the states.

The region is however teeming with multiple challenges of diverse natures like maritime terrorism and smuggling hashish and other contraband items. Since 2005, the world has witnessed the most dramatic rise in the modern day piracy which has been minimised due concerted efforts of world navies including Pakistan Navy. The spike in the regional demand for fossil fuel, piracy, maritime terrorism, the delimitation of boundaries, climatic changes, and a conglomeration of failed states have merged to render Indian Ocean a mishmash of multifarious challenges. This brings with it a clash of strategic interests, competing economies and power struggles between regional and extra, regional powers.

Pakistan’s economic destiny is wedded to the overwhelming percentage of commerce which is sea based. Oil provides 32 percent of the country’s primary energy requirement while its share in power generation is 38 percent. The annual oil imports of the country are around 20 million tons. Bulk of this oil is imported via sea. For Pakistan therefore, energy security and maritime security are two sides of the same coin-inseparable twins.

It is in the aforesaid backdrop that Pakistan Navy (PN) has transformed into a reckonable regional force and realigned itself as a consequential international player for preserving maritime security order in the wider arc of the Western Indian Ocean. In 2004, Pakistan Navy joined the US led Multi-National Combined Task Force-150. As the maritime component of Operation ‘Enduring Freedom’, the Task force continues to work with regional navies to conduct theatre level maritime security operations against terror networks and crime syndicates. As an inexhaustible regional participant, Pakistan Navy has distinguished itself by completing ten command tenures of Combined Task Force-150.

In January 2009, with the spectre of Somali piracy assuming menacing proportions, the Coalition Maritime Forces Headquarters in Bahrain created a dedicated Task Force (CTF 151). It comprised of ships and aircraft from over 20 countries that were to aid the international drive against Piracy. Pakistan Navy joined the effort and has commanded this Task Force CTF-151 for record eight times. In 2018, Pakistan Navy took an initiative of independent Regional Maritime Security Patrols (RMSP) to counter maritime terrorism, piracy, arms and human smuggling in the Indian Ocean.

On 4th March 2019, Pakistan Navy detected Indian Navy Submarine operating in Pakistani Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). However, it was blocked from entering into Pakistani waters. Previously, on 14 November 2016, Indian Navy Submarine was detected and compelled to move away from Pakistan waters. The incidents vividly reflect not only high vigilance and competence of Pakistan Navy but also commitment and resolve of Pakistan Navy to defend geographical frontiers of mother land.

The most significant initiative of Pakistan Navy in the field of maritime defence diplomacy was the institution of Multinational Exercise AMAN in 2007. The biennial exercise preceded by International Maritime Conference has since become a regular mega event in the PN calendar. It is a powerful initiative towards reinforcing maritime security and stability. The concept of AMAN centers around information sharing, identifying areas of common interest for participating navies and a shared understanding on maritime security operations, counter terrorism operations and operations related to humanitarian assistance. The latest, sixth AMAN series exercises “AMAN-19” held from 8-12 Feb 19 at Karachi in which 46 regional and extra regional countries participated.

Ocean space is unarguably vast and the maritime interests of nations are widely dispersed. It is virtually impossible for a single nation-to monitor large swathes of ocean 24/7/365 much less respond to activities that might endanger legitimate national or international maritime interests. The extensive unregulated spaces in the maritime domain consequently become fertile ground for criminal networks to pursue their illegitimate activities. Having knowledge and ability to project influence outside the maritime domain is therefore an indispensable need.

Augmenting Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) both in its own area as well as the wider tracts of Indian Ocean is a cardinal goal of Pakistan Navy. A ‘Joint Maritime Information and Coordination Center’ (JMICC) has also been set up. It aims to coordinate the efforts of all national stakeholders including various ministries and agencies to construct data on all water borne vessels and craft operating in the country’s maritime jurisdiction. The keel laying of the ‘National Centre for Maritime Policy and Research’ (NCMPR), now re-named as National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA) as adjunct to Bahria University was another endeavour of Pakistan Navy in the said direction. NCMPR acts as a think-tank for multidisciplinary study and maritime policy research in the country.

Indian Ocean is home to a vast number of rising economies whose fate and prosperity is inextricably linked to sea. The contemporary era is characterised by interdependence and need to work cooperatively. This applies more to the stakeholders associated with the Indian Ocean than perhaps any other region in the world. Pakistan is a peace loving country that believes in regional security and stability. Pakistan Navy’s active participation in international coalitions, holding of Multinational Exercise AMAN and other initiatives is a testimony of its commitment to promote peace and stability through a collaborative architecture.