Pakistan Navy is hosting a mega multinational Aman (peace) maritime exercise in the North Arabian Sea from February 11 to 16, 2021. The exercise aims at improving interoperability between regional and extra-regional navies for attaining peace and countering non-traditional maritime challenges in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
The IOR is a pivot of the geopolitical and geo-economic world order. It serves as a maritime highway linking transcontinental human and economic relationships. It is home to important international sea lines of communication and various maritime chokepoints like the Straits of Hormuz, Babel-Mandeb Strait, and Malacca Mozambique Channel, Lombok, and Sunda Straits. Over 50 percent of the world’s container traffic and over 80 percent of the world’s seaborne oil trade travels through IOR. It provides transit connectivity routes to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and all the Asian regions.
The region is exposed to nonstate actors’ hazardous activities that pose risks to ships plying along the SLOCs. The seafaring nations, including Pakistan, cannot afford any disruption in traffic flow through these SLOCs and choke points. 90 percent of Pakistan’s trade is seaborne, and most of its energy requirements are also met through the sea.
Desire for a stable maritime order
Pakistani national security planners are convinced that a stable maritime order can only be established through integration rather than alienation. Therefore, along with the like-minded littoral nations, they have been struggling to ensure IOR’s shipping routes. For example, in 2018, Pakistan Navy launched the initiative of Regional Maritime Security Patrol to make seas safer for human use, augment maritime security and contribute to freedom of navigation in the IOR. Moreover, since 2009, it has been sending its flotilla to the Gulf of Aden for maritime security in the region.
Since 2007, Pakistan has been hosting the biannual multinational Aman exercise for collective maritime security. Last week, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral M Amjad Khan Niazi noted that Pakistan Navy had taken the initiative of holding the biennial multinational exercise AMAN in 2007 to demonstrate the country’s commitment to peace, reinforce regional maritime security and enhance interoperability between regional and extra-regional navies.
The exercise is not a war game but drills against nontraditional security threats. Despite having competing strategic objectives, through Aman 2021, the 45 international navies learn from one another to defeat piracy, maritime terrorism, drugs and arms trafficking, human smuggling and other threats in the maritime domain. The growing number of participating countries made it a major multinational exercise for exhibiting a common resolve against crimes and illicit activities in the maritime domain. Besides, it reflects growing trust in Pakistan Navy’s “credibility in bringing navies of the East and West under a common platform, for good of the global commons.”
The big 3 navies
Notably, during the Aman 2021 exercise, the three largest navies— the US, China, and Russia— will participate under one manifesto for collective maritime security. The Russian and NATO members’ naval ships participate in joint drills after the hiatus of a decade. The last time they did joint military drills in the ‘Bold Monarch’ exercise was in 2011. Nevertheless, Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 spoiled its working relations with NATO.
The leading navies’ participation testifies the endorsement of the motto of Aman 2021, i.e., “Together for Peace.” Indeed, mutual trust, enhancing cooperation, pooling resources, and establishing standard practices are a prerequisite to tackle nontraditional threats, mainly combating the nonstate actors’ destabilizing activities at sea.
Divided into phases
The Aman 2021 activities are divided into two phases: a harbor phase and a sea phase. The harbor activities include seminars, discussions, and demonstrations. Renowned scholars and professional experts on contemporary maritime security critically examine the prevalent maritime challenges and chalk out their solutions.
In the sea phase, the participating navies attend the military drills with their surface and air assets, special operation forces, and maritime teams. They are involved in various activities, including maneuvers, weapon firing drills, maritime interdiction operations, flying operations, search and rescue exercises, and international fleet review– all of this improves Pakistan Navy’s capability to combat nontraditional threats and improve the country’s soft image in the international community.
Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. Author of India’s Surgical Strike Stratagem: Brinksmanship and Response, (2019). He is also an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, London and a course coordinator at Foreign Services Academy for the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Email: email@example.com. This piece was first published in Arab News. It has been republished with permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.