Pakistan Navy (PN), in order to strengthen cooperation, interoperability, and to display united resolve against asymmetric and traditional threats, conducted the 8th Multinational Naval Exercise AMAN with the slogan ‘Together for Peace’ from February 10-14, 2023 in the North Arabian Sea. Fifty-two navies of the world including USA, from Europe, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkiye, from Far East, China, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, from Africa, Cameron, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Djibouti, Morocco, and almost all the Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Iran, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait took part. It is considered a blue diplomacy move by Pakistan Navy, bringing together maritime nations in the Indian Ocean Region and beyond and calling for galvanizing efforts to maintain strong cooperation at sea. This time maiden International Maritime Expo and 10th International Maritime Conference (IMC 2023) were held at Expo Center Karachi in tandem with AMAN. The purpose was to showcase the maritime potential of Pakistan to attract the world’s business community. The exercise was designed to provide a common platform for information sharing, mutual understanding and identifying areas of common interest, besides intermixing multinationals with representation of their respective cultures during cultural shows and food galas. It aims at developing and practicing response tactics, techniques, and procedures against the traditional and non-traditional threats during sea phase of the exercise.
The known non-traditional security challenges are terrorism, piracy, human and narcotics trafficking, goods and ammunition smuggling, pollution and ecosystem loss. Environmental threats include climate change, increasing acidity in sea water and its negative effects on marine life, the rise of sea level and its temperature due to global warming which needs a collaborative response. Pakistan Navy has always contributed towards peace and stability in the region. PN is participating in the U.S. mandated Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 and 151, since 2004 and 2009 respectively. Similarly, bilateral exercises are regularly carried out with the U.S., Chinese and other regional and extraregional navies.
Indian Ocean is the third largest ocean in the world, a hub of major sea routes connecting the Middle East, Africa and East Asia with Europe and the Americas. These vital sea lanes facilitate maritime trade in ten regions, carry more than half of the world's sea-borne oil and host 23 of the world's top 100 container ports. China, the USA, Japan, South Korea, Europe, Pakistan, and many other nations import a substantial amount to meet their requirements of energy and merchandise imports and exports through this ocean. Seven choke points in the region, include Strait of Hormuz, Bab-el-Mandeb, Suez Canal, Malacca straits, Lombok strait, Sunda strait, and Mozambique channel. Strait of Hormuz is of strategic importance because it provides no alternate route to Gulf, the major source of oil and gas. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that about 30% of the world's crude oil and other liquids, as well as 30% of global LNG trade, is moved through this strait. The disruption of any of these choke points has overwhelming effects on the prices of oil and food security of the world, particularly strait of Hormuz and Malacca straits. Pakistan, specifically Gwadar Port, occupies a strategic location overlooking the Strait of Hormuz and the North Arabian Sea. 95% of Pakistan’s import and exports and 99% of oil and gas is carried out through the sea. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has further enhanced its importance not only for Pakistan but also for China, and other landlocked countries like Afghanistan and Central Asian states. Therefore, Pakistan is one of the important stakeholders in the security framework. The PN regularly carries out Regional Maritime Security Patrol (RMSP) to safeguard the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), other areas of interest and sea lanes which are the lifeline of the trade. Similarly, Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) and Coast Guards keep the areas of interest under constant surveillance.
In order to demonstrate Pakistan's commitment to peace, project positive image of Pakistan as a country contributing towards regional peace and stability, consolidate PN's position in the regional maritime arena and to enhance interoperability with regional and extraregional navies, PN took an initiative of holding a multinational exercise in 2007, which is being conducted biennially. In AMAN-07, 14 ships from Bangladesh, China, France, Italy, Malaysia, the UK and the USA navies participated. Overall, 28 countries participated in the exercise with the aforesaid assets and 29 observers. The participation of countries has been increasing in the subsequent exercises. In the last AMAN exercise conducted in February 2021, 42 countries including the USA, the UK, China, Russia, and other regional and extraregional countries having otherwise diverse objectives participated. This year, fifty navies of the world took part. The exercise was divided into harbor and sea phases. The harbor phase included opening ceremony at PN Dockyard, wreath laying at the mausoleum of the Quaid, friendly sports matches, international band display and international cultural display and food gala. The professional events included Maritime Counter Terrorism Demonstration by SSG and Pak Marines, and table top discussions on professional topics. Activities at sea included various exercises to practice response against the maritime security threats in a multinational environment. In addition, an International Fleet Review (IFR) was also conducted during which several operational activities such as underway replenishment, rocket and depth charge firing, surface firing, fly past by the air units of PN and PAF, and finally man and cheer ship in the honor of the chief guest were carried out.
This mega multinational exercise AMAN 2023, organized by PN in which countries having diverse objectives participated, is a distinctive occasion. It corroborates blue diplomacy move by Pakistan Navy, bringing together maritime nations of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and beyond on a common platform. It reinforms the confidence in the professionalism of PN by different navies. The participation of a large number of navies endorses a peaceful, secure, and safe environment in Pakistan. It also postulates that Pakistan enjoys a very respectable status in the comity of nations as a peace-loving nation.
The writer is associated with National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA), Islamabad.
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