50 navies visiting Pakistan to attend Aman naval exercise

Oonib Azam And Amjad Bashir Siddiqi
Thursday, Feb 09, 2023

The Pakistan Navy is holding its eighth edition of the annual Aman multinational exercise from February 10, in which for the first time 50 countries are participating.

Naval participants from European, Eurasian, Asian and American continents are bringing together ships, aircraft, special operation forces, explosive ordnance disposal teams. Observers will also attend the multinational exercise, which will continue till February 14.

At a media briefing on Wednesday, Commander Pakistan Fleet Vice Admiral Owais Ahmad Bilgrami said services chiefs from Lebanon, Djibouti and Tanzania would also be the special guests during the weeklong exercise.

Highlighting Pakistan’s maritime concerns and interests, Vice Admiral Bilgrami said maritime stability becomes a vital national security interest owing to the country’s dependence on the seas for trade, operationalisation of the CPEC project and our strategic location astride the global energy highway. He said the importance of maritime security is not only critical for Pakistan but also for all other countries whose prosperity and progress are tied to the seas.

The non-conventional threats, including piracy, terrorism, narco-arms trafficking and climate change, are equally serious. But the vastness of the oceans requires robust collaborative maritime security to fend off these issues and Aman showcases the acknowledged reality of combating the maritime threats collectively.

The sea lines of communications of the Arabian Sea, being the jugular of global and regional trade and commerce with multiple chokepoints,need to be protected from traditional and asymmetric threats and from the emerging disruptive communication technologies linked to artificial intelligence and robotics that can potentially threaten digital security including deep-water cables, energy lines and other assets. By training together and evolving common, synchronised strategies and joint tactics, we can guard and pre-empt the growing global and regional susceptibility to cyberattacks and employing new instruments of cooperation.

The Pakistan Navy seeks to enhance interoperability between regional and extra regional navies to promote peace and stability in the region and beyond. From 2006 onwards, piracy and maritime terrorism incidents like those of Somali pirates hijacking commercial ships and crews increased significantly all around the world, but especially in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf and the Somalia Basin, threatening commercial interests and freedom of the high seas.

According to the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Center, due to joint global efforts of which Pakistan is a critical part, the piracy and terrorism incidents dropped to 41 by 2019 from 180 in 2017. The Pakistan Navy is the first regional navy to become a member of the US-led and Bahrain-based Combined Maritime Forces in 2004 to conduct regional maritime security patrols in southern Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and choke points off the Maldives. The PN’s very own Task Force-88 is focused on ensuring robust security posture in the maritime security of Gwadar and the adjacent sea-lanes.

The Pakistan Fleet commander said Aman would provide a forum for understanding each other’s maritime concepts and operational cultures, enhancing interoperability as well as identifying ways and means to combat common threats at sea.

Vice Admiral Bilgrami said the exercise would comprise harbour and sea phases. The former involves seminars, operational discussions, professional demonstrations, international get together and pre-sail planning of evolutions at sea.

The sea phase would include tactical maneuvers, exercises related to maritime security such as anti-piracy and counter terrorism, search and rescue, gunnery firing and air defence exercises. The high point of the sea phase will be the International Fleet Review, which will be witnessed by national and foreign dignitaries, he said.

Alongside Aman, the vice admiral said, the Pakistan Navy along with the Ministry of Maritime Affairs is for the first time holding Pakistan International Maritime Expo & Conference from February 10-12. This would highlight Pakistan’s maritime potential and provide investors opportunities to explore business options through exhibitions and interactions.

He also said following sea surveys, they have found our coastline to be rich in hydrocarbons and other minerals, besides fisheries. Tourism is another area of high business interest for Pakistan.

The maritime industry would display products and develop business relationships, he said. Regarding, naval preparedness in view of hostile threats, Vice Admiral Bilgrami said the Pakistan Navy is a balanced power that has focused for a long time on indigenous production of sophisticated submarines, frigates and gunboats and with the cooperation of global friends. He also said the acquisitions and procurements of more platforms, emerging technologies, including UAVs, AI platforms and electronic warfare equipment, are being undertaken according to predetermined timelines.