AMAN-2021, the 7th exercise of the series, was held from February 11-16, 2021. The exercise is one of the mega events of Pakistan Navy held biennially to signify the commitment towards making seas safer for positive human activities while inviting regional and extra-regional navies. This year Exercise AMAN was attended by up to 45 countries with ships, aircraft, Special Operation Forces and a large number of observers.
AMAN: Building Partnerships for Peace
Unlike the lands marked by Westphalian borders, oceans of the world belong to the global commons – the collective heritage of mankind. While relatively dormant in the chronicles of primordial history, the relevance and importance of oceans to mankind has risen exponentially in the last few centuries. With the boom of globalization and hydrocarbons becoming the backbone of economies, over 90% of world’s trade is seaborne with the oceans of the planet infested with thousands of merchant vessels, container ships, oil and chemical tankers, etc. at any given time. Besides the maritime commerce, oil rigs drilling through the unfathomable oceans, fishing industry on the lookout for the finest catch, scientific vessels vying for submerged fortunes, undersea optical highways carrying voluminous data across the globe and people seeking enjoyment in recreation activities at sea are few other notable maritime ventures. This magnanimity of global enterprise at the oceans is a technological miracle with enormous dividends for mankind. Yet malevolence has co-existed with benevolence since times immemorial. With a lot of good coming from the oceans, threats like piracy, drug smuggling, human trafficking, transportation of illicit cargo, maritime terrorism, oil spills and water pollution are also real and imminent darker realities associated with it. With no single flag dominating the blue, these searing threats demand a collective response with collaborative approach and synergized efforts on an unprecedented scale.
Pakistan being cognizant of the global and regional dictates, took the leap by hosting multinational naval exercise AMAN in 2007 with representation from around 20 countries. Ever since, Pakistan Navy has biennially been hosting AMAN series naval exercises with a progressive response. Amidst the geopolitical flux accentuated by the global pandemic of COVID-19, Pakistan Navy hosted the seventh edition of AMAN series multinational exercise from February 11-16, 2021, in the North Arabian Sea. From a modest start in 2007, AMAN in 2021 witnessed participation from 42 countries including USA, China, Russia, Turkey, KSA, Iran and host of other nations from South America to Oceania. The participating countries were represented in the exercise by ships, aircraft, special forces, observers, diplomats and foreign delegates. Besides the spectacular display of core maritime skills at sea like anti-piracy, counter-terrorism, surface firing, fleet review, etc. demanding high level of interoperability, the harbor phase of the exercise was equally vibrant. It encompassed a 3-day thought-provoking International Maritime Conference and an array of professional and social activities like cross deck visits, onboard receptions, sports matches, international food gala and cultural night. The mix of color and creed in the exercise and the multihued array of flags hoisted on Pakistan’s soil reinforced the slogan for the exercise “Together for Peace”, the mantra which echoed the electronic, print and social media platforms during the exercise.
The overwhelming response to Pakistan’s call for peace is not only a testimony of global resolve to promote order at sea but also showcases Pakistan’s significance on the global canvas and recognition of its efforts to promote peace and stability in the region and beyond. While multinational and multilateral exercises are a norm in the 21st century, AMAN-2021 distinguishes itself from these ventures in more than one prominently discernable but closely interrelated aspects like the location, timeframe, objectives, participation and, above all, the host country itself.
Objectives. The multinational maritime exercise is quite significant given the large scale non-partisan collaboration in the Indian Ocean Region, which is an impressive chessboard for global stakeholders given its great economic and strategic significance. The aims and objectives surrounding AMAN series of exercises perfectly resonate with its name which means “Peace” and its metaphorical slogan of “Together for Peace”. It seeks to encompass the common battle of wellbeing of humanity against nontraditional threats. The objectives of the exercise include collective effort against evils like piracy, human trafficking, smuggling of narcotics and weapons, and counter-terrorism by intensifying operational drills and manoeuvres countering non-linear threats. It also seeks to develop interoperability amongst regional and extra regional navies and ensure effective Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) through collective effort. The academic aspect of the exercise covered during International Maritime Conference targeted a relatively obscure and less discussed subject of Blue Economy. The exercise also reiterated the significance of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Gwadar Port. It is noteworthy that all disciplines of the exercise were collaborative rather than competitive. Being a non-partisan forum, the exercise focused on common good, wellbeing and good order at sea in the region and beyond.
Participation. Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), an English General and statesman famously said, “A man-of-war is the best ambassador” and by this standard, participation in AMAN-2021 speaks a lot. Military diplomacy though sometimes criticized in the democratic paradigm is neither new nor obsolete. In the maritime realm, pursuit of foreign policy objectives through conspicuous displays of naval power has been long termed as gunboat diplomacy or Naval diplomacy. With ever evolving concepts of warfare, concept of power projection taking the lead, the diplomacy has morphed with a softer undertone encompassing goodwill visits, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, joint exercises, etc. Today, collaborative military and naval engagements of a country with other countries is a measure of its overall diplomatic ascendency and soft power. While seemingly ordinary, the magnitude and scale of participation in AMAN exercises has been remarkably exceptional when compared to other such worldwide exercises. Hailed as the world’s largest maritime warfare exercise, “RIMPAC”, the Rim of the Pacific Exercise hosted biennially by U.S. since 1971 scored participation from 26 nations in 2018 and was scaled down to 10 nations in 2020 due to COVID-19. Australian version of multinational exercise “KAKADU” was last held in September 2018 and involved participation from 27 nations. The last of “MILAN” series exercise hosted by India in 2018 was attended by 16 nations. While Pakistan’s AMAN exercise may be smaller in scale and magnitude when compared to these exercises, it clearly takes a lead in participation by representation from 42 countries in AMAN-2021. Remarkably, the range of countries participating in AMAN-2021 are not only geographically dispersed, culturally diverse, politically alienated but in a few instances competitors if not arch rivals. It is a rare occasion where men in arms from U.S., China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and KSA are gathered in an environment of harmony and friendship. It is also noteworthy that in AMAN-2021, Russian and NATO naval forces operated together after a lapse of a decade, last being in Exercise Bold Monarch off the coast of Spain in 2011.
Host Country. Last but not the least distinctive aspect of the exercise is the host country Pakistan. Ranking 5th in world by population and 43rd in the economy, Pakistan stands at 154th position in GDP per capita amongst the comity of nations. With an extensive military history having fought 3 wars with India, for decades Pakistan has been extensively committed to countering terrorism following the War on Terror. Despite this, Pakistan is a thriving country; we have more to our achievements than our failures. Blessed with a strategic location, diverse landscape, plenty of natural resources, rich fauna and flora, sundry cultures, heterogeneous languages, assorted cuisines and, above all, vibrant and thriving people, Pakistan is diametrically opposite to the global perception surrounding it. Dwelling in a precarious neighborhood, Pakistan is a responsible nuclear power and possesses one of the finest Armed Forces in the world. But as commonly said, “Harmony seldom makes a headline”, Pakistan is surrounded by a negative perception largely sponsored and propagated by its adversaries. Being a victim of terrorism itself, Pakistan has been inappropriately labelled as a terror sponsoring state. Other labels of negativity disproportionately associated with Pakistan are that of corruption, crime, lack of freedom of expression, human and women rights violations, decay of democracy, etc. It is acknowledged that Pakistan is a struggling country and has a lot to put in order on its domestic front, but just over seven decades from its inception, Pakistan has already come a long way. On the international front, Pakistan has tremendous contributions, always remaining amongst top three contributors to UN Peacekeeping Missions, Pakistan is continually proving its commitment to peace. Being a leading ally in the Global War On Terror, Pakistan has made immense contributions and sacrifices. On the maritime front, Pakistan is an active member of U.S.-led naval Combined Task Forces 150 (Counter-terrorism) and 151 (Counter-piracy); continuously contributing its bit in promoting peace and stability in the North Arabian Sea and the wider Indian Ocean Region. However, it merits emphasis that although it has 33rd position amongst countries with respect to area, the length of our coastline is at a modest 74th place. With a history of continental thinking, Pakistan has been slowly evolving the maritime mindset. The AMAN series of exercises initiated in 2007 is a testimony of this evolution which has a long way to go. Despite its internal challenges and meagre resources, conduct of such a magnanimous naval exercise is indeed a testimony of Pakistan’s resolve and commitment to peace and stability and its belief in collaboration and cooperation. The overwhelming response by the global community is definitely an acknowledgement of Pakistan’s efforts and recognition of its responsible stature. The success of the exercise AMAN-2021 conveys a clear message to the quarters making chants and rhetoric of diplomatic isolation of Pakistan.
9th International Maritime Conference
The 9th International Maritime Conference (IMC) 2021 was organized by National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA), under the aegis of Pakistan Navy in tandem with Exercise AMAN-2021. This year the IMC’s theme was ‘Development of Blue Economy Under a Secure and Sustainable Environment: A Shared Future for Western Indian Ocean Region’. Held from February 13-15, 2021 the three-day conference comprised over eight sessions covering talks of eminent international and national scholars from Australia, Bahrain, Nigeria, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Turkey, the UK and USA.
During the first session, IMO Secretary General, Honorable Kitack Lim presented opening remarks whereas President Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Sardar Masood Khan delivered the keynote address. In addition, CEO Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives (ZERO) South Africa, Dr. Gunter Pauli spoke on ‘Blue Growth Strategy for the Future World’ as online keynote speaker. The President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Dr. Arif Alvi graced the opening session of IMC as chief guest. The Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Admiral Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi was also present on the occasion. The President appreciated Pakistan Navy for actively promoting maritime thought and spearheading efforts for the development of Blue Economy in the country. CNS highlighted Pakistan Navy’s efforts for promoting maritime awareness and the Blue Economy through a variety of initiatives and in enhancing regional maritime security through its contributions in international and regional collaborative security mechanisms.
In the second session, Senator Sherry Rehman discussed the ‘Geo-Strategic Environment in IOR – Opportunities for Developing Countries’. Besides, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, Vice Admiral Samuel Paparo also delivered his keynote online address on ‘Enhancing Regional Maritime Security in the Western Indian Ocean through Effective Mechanism’. The last speaker of the second session was Australian National University Professor Dr. David Brewster. Former Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Ehsan ul Haq (R) graced the session as the chief guest.
In the third session, Rear Admiral, YMGB Jayathilake of Sri Lankan Navy highlighted the ‘Challenges of Maritime Security’ and proposed ‘Future Course of Actions for Regional Navies’. Later, Dr. Timothy Walker from South Africa discussed ‘South Africa’s Perspective on the Blue Economy and Security Management’. Besides, Professor Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, of Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad and Ms. Camille Lons, Research Associate from The International Institute of Strategic Studies, Bahrain also presented their talks. Minister for Defence of Pakistan, Mr. Pervez Khan Khattak was the chief guest of the session.
In the fourth session Executive Director Institute of China America Studies, USA Dr. Nong Hong, delivered important keynote address on ‘BRI and its Implications on Maritime Security in the Indian Ocean Region’. Commander Karachi Vice Admiral Faisal Rasul Lodhi enlightened the audience on ‘Pakistan Navy’s contributions for Maritime Security and Regional Stability in the Western Indian Ocean Region’. And later, Rear Admiral (LH) Murat Dinçman of Turkish Navy provided valuable insight on ‘Turkish Perspective on Maritime Security Challenges’. Special Assistant to Prime Minister of Pakistan on National Security, Dr. Moeed Yusuf graced the session as chief guest.
In the fifth session, CEO JS Global, Mr. Kamran Nasir and Executive Director, Pakistan National Shipping Corporation Mr. Khurrum Mirza presented their insight during IMC. Additionally, Head of Maritime Education & Training World Maritime University, Sweden Dr. Michael Ekow Manuel emphasized on the importance of ‘Maritime Research Training in Education’. Later, Head of Marine and Aviation, Lloyd’s Market Association, UK, Mr. Neil Roberts presented a paper on ‘Marine Insurance Supporting the Blue Economy’. Later, Dr. Edmund Hughes from Green Marines Associates, UK also spoke. Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs of Pakistan, Syed Ali Haider Zaidi was the chief guest.
During the sixth session, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed shared his views on ‘Significance of Building Strategic Partnership for Socio-Economic in Indian Ocean Region’. Besides, Mayor Laut (P) Dedi Gunawan Widyatmoko from Indonesian Navy delivered his talk. Commodore Sunday Daniel Atakpa presented the paper on behalf of CT Ops Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Ibikunle Taiwo Olaiya discussed ‘Nigeria’s Blue Economy Potentials and Sustainable Development in the Gulf of Guinea’. Later, Associate Dean, IBA Dr. Huma Naz Baqai also presented her views during IMC. Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral Ahmed Saeed graced the event as chief guest.
On this day, renowned scholars deliberated on the ocean governance, policies and laws. Chairman Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology UK, Captain Muhammad Shafique explicated the Blue Economy paradigm in the light of IMO and UN bodies. Later, Director of Maritime Research World Maritime University Sweden, Dr. Aykut I. Ölçer, in an online talk extended his views. Regional Head Sindh and Balochistan WWF-Pakistan, Dr. Tahir Rasheed underscored blue growth strategy, opportunities for coastal communities. Minister of State for Climate Change of Pakistan Ms. Zartaj Gul graced the conference as chief guest.
In the third and last session, CEO ZERI, Mr. Gunter Pauli presented his views on ‘Blue Growth Strategy for the Future World’. Later, another important keynote address was also delivered by Vice Admiral Iftikhar Ahmed Rao (R).
The Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi graced the Closing Ceremony as chief guest. Addressing the audience, he highlighted that Government is cognizant of the importance of Blue Economy and taking all possible measures for its development. He underscored the huge potential of the maritime domain, where all other sectors of economy crisscross and also underlined that unveiling of new shipping policy offers tangible benefits for investment in maritime sector. The Foreign Minister praised Pakistan Navy for promoting maritime awareness in the country, spearheading efforts for the development of Blue Economy and taking various initiatives to ensure peace and order at sea individually and in collaboration with regional and extra regional navies.
In his closing remarks CNS Admiral Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi thanked all the speakers, panelists and participants who travelled from far and wide or participated virtually to add great value to the conference.
He also praised the efforts of NIMA for successful conduct of the event.
The conference was attended by a large number of dignitaries from across the globe, officers from Defence Forces of Pakistan and friendly countries, as well as academia, media representatives and researchers from national and international think tanks.
AMAN Breaking Barriers, Making Bonds
AMAN represents a ‘bridge’ that allows several countries to meet and operate through their naval forces with each other, even though there may not be open relationships between a few nations due to various politico-strategic differences. This exactly was the role that Pakistan had played back in the 1960s-70s, by acting as a link between the East and the West, when Sino-American barrier was broken and a new bond established. In retrospect, this historic step remains one of the contributing factors for relocation of labour-intensive industry from America to China. AMAN is reflective of Pakistan’s bridge-spirit. AMAN, as Chief of the Naval Staff, Pakistan Navy Admiral Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi calls it, is a manifestation of “securitization through cooperation”, a thesis that predicates on collectivism rather than states vying for maximization of their own security irrespective of others.
Beginning its journey from 2007, Pakistan Navy consistently held biennial multi-national, multi-force maritime exercise, AMAN, with one clear objective: operate together to defeat the common threats. This exercise draws its inspiration from the word Aman, which means security in Arabic, while in Urdu it is taken as the state of peace. With such a wide meaning, the word Aman suitably represents Pakistan Navy’s intentions of finding a platform seeking ‘peace and security’ in the maritime domain. The number of participants steadily grew from the inaugural session, i.e., from 28 in 2007 to 46 in 2019, and the figure is expected to increase further. Rising trajectory of participation signals an acceptance of Pakistan’s message of peace and security.
Steering clear of realists’ paradigm, Pakistan substantially inclines towards cooperation as a strategic choice when it comes to dealing with situations perilous to shared human interests. Doctrinally, Pakistan Navy believes in existence of a ‘cooperative continuum’, which allows navies to operate together through regional and extra-regional coalitions, with an ability to respond to traditional and non-traditional maritime threats. Pakistan Navy appears eagerly working through its own initiated and sustained multilateral arrangements seeking maritime security.
Anchored on the guiding principle of ‘proactive engagement’, Pakistan Navy sees maritime outreach as an opportunity of making and solidifying partnerships that transcend the traditional interest-based approach. AMAN is not a reaction to any regional maritime construct but a reflection of Pakistan’s preference of engagement over estrangement, bonds over barriers and cooperation over competition. AMAN can, therefore, rightly be called as an operational manifestation of Pakistan’s foreign policy.
AMAN provides two forums: one for the academics, to exhaustively debate current and emerging threats that concern us collectively; whereas the other forum provides the naval professionals several mechanisms to operationally deal with those threats. As the academics focus on exchange of views on the understanding of the threats, their patterns and trends; while the military professionals improve interoperability, refine tactical procedures and deepen comprehension of each other’s operating environment. Cumulatively, this enables sustainment of enduring bonds among various navies who participate in AMAN and equip them with the skillsets of operating together in a cooperative continuum.
Exercises like AMAN are a sign that Pakistan is a pragmatic opponent of revisionism and isolation policy, i.e., it is an open society willing to work with others on the basis of trust, mutual benefit and collective learning. AMAN signifies an activity that lessens regional hostility because of enduring Indo-Pak contention, and consequently catalyzes regional stability as the gathering of several nations at Karachi radiates a message emphasizing aversion to armed conflict. Gatherings like AMAN disincentivize armed conflict and encourage formulization of ways to constructively engage and understand shared concerns, which are far more ominous than typical inter-state rivalries.
There could be a question of why is there a need for AMAN? Statistically, more than 80% of global merchandizes trade by volume and over 70% of its value is carried by international shipping industry. Drugs and weapons, primarily transported through sea leveraging the advantage of unsupervised large swaths of the oceans, are used to keep the conflicts conflagrating in different areas of the world. Several vast expanses of the sea that remain without naval presence afford many opportunities to elements that choose unlawful activities to propel their political and economic agendas. These unlawful activities include: piracy, human smuggling, gun-running, terrorism and poaching, to name a few.
It’s a globally acknowledged postulate that no nation alone, irrespective of its economic or military capacity, can handle contemporary maritime challenges. This explicitly means that partnerships are the only workable constructs against the present and evolving maritime threats. Apart from the unlawful activities, the looming danger of climate change becomes clearer by the day. Indian Ocean states have already been witnessing the effect of Indian Ocean Dipole causing floods on one side and drought on the other. These circumstances demand a cooperative response to support the states embattling the consequences of natural disasters.
AMAN reasserts the navies’ roles that Ken Booth argued in his opus Navies and Foreign Policy, where sea enables navies to perform functions that other military services cannot undertake. The navies’ ability to operate with an almost unhindered freedom, under the globally accepted Law of the Sea, makes them the ideal force to functionally represent a nation’s intentions of partnership and cooperation. Land and air forces cannot come as close as the navies do, even without a prior notice, and interact with each other. This feature significantly distinguishes navies to be instruments of ‘breaking barriers’ and ‘making bonds’, just as AMAN sets to achieve.
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