Alfred Thayer Mahan, a strategist defined the importance of Navy and Naval power by saying,

‘No nation can become a great world power without a great navy. Overseas colonies are required to support naval bases on which to project a globe-girdling navy’.

 

Maritime combat in the 20th century warfare has attained due significance. Likewise when the concept of Blue Economy is gaining strength and popularity while considering the prominence of sea routes, any country’s Navy become a vital necessity. Indian Ocean being the third largest ocean in the world constitutes an important locus on the globe. The Indian Ocean provides major sea-routes which connect the Middle East with Europe, East Asia, Africa and US. The sea lanes or routes in the Indian Ocean are strategically considered substantial as more than 80 percent of World’s seaborne trade takes place via Indian Ocean and has important choke points for oil transits. Through these choke points, 40 percent of transit is via the Strait of Hormuz, 35 percent takes place through the Strait of Malacca and 8 percent of it passes through the Bab el-Mandab Channel. Apart from channels of transportation, Indian Ocean is shared by major powers for their marine compatibility and thus face challenges too, in the form of strategic developments by states. However, this Indian Ocean Region is considered volatile after the post-Cold War developments when it comes to domestic tumult or conflicts among several states, acquisition of nuclear capability by countries and indulging into arms race, proliferation of weapons, terrorism, drug & human trafficking, environmental degradation or threats of piracy.

Pakistan being strategically important state holds a pertinent position in IOR. With a view to share maritime challenges with other countries, Pakistan’s Navy took an initiative of conducting maritime exercises with several countries. It was named as AMAN, which means peace in Urdu language and thus intends to convey the message of harmony and peace to the region through its slogan which says; “Together for Peace”. AMAN series of multinational exercises was started in 2007 with a view to promote regional cooperation and stability, greater inter-operability and to display a united resolution against terrorism and crimes in maritime domain including Piracy. 7th exercise of AMAN series was held from 8th of February to 12th of February 2019 and 46 countries participated in this one of largest maritime exercise of IOR. Definitely, the concept behind such exercises is not show off military strength but to asses one’s preparedness for any kind of challenges and with many countries being part of such activities one can judge its capability and operational preparedness from better lens. Likewise, the concept of exercise, AMAN revolves around information sharing, mutual understanding and identifying areas of common interests for participating navies with emphasis on maritime security operations, counter terrorism operations and humanitarian assistance operation. Based on this, the exercise seeks to develop and practice Response Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (RTTP) for maritime infrastructure, assets and forces against traditional and non-traditional threats.

Cruising and anchoring together, 46 countries navies while displaying their skills and professionalism for inter-operability shared many experiences in AMAN-2019. Naval assets, including naval ships, helicopters, Special Forces elements and observers from 46 countries participated in this exercise with a resolve, under the title ‘Together for Peace’. The exercise was conducted in two phases. Harbour phase which included seminars, discussions, table talks, cross ship visits, calls on, international band display, maritime counter terrorism demos, cultural show, food gala along with a three-day international maritime conference on ‘Global geopolitics in transition: rethinking maritime dynamics in the Indian Ocean region’. The Sea phase included practical execution of operational plans and activities finalised during harbour phase and International Fleet Review. Hence, the Sea phase had those practices and demonstrations of skills in the IOR which provided forum for understanding of each other’s maritime concepts and operational cultures and came up with ways and means to combat common threats at sea. On the inaugural ceremony, Commander Pakistan Fleet Vice Admiral Amjad Khan Niazi said that exercises like AMAN seeks to enhance cooperation between countries and allows them to take benefit from mutual advantages and understand each other. He further added that maritime security should be quintessentially cooperative instead of being competitive. Pakistan’s Naval Chief Admiral Zafar Abbasi while sharing his thoughts during his visit on different fleets, said that the camaraderie generated herein would grow in future and brings all participants of the exercise closer to the mutual goal of regional peace and prosperity.

Indian hegemonic designs and attainment of nuclear powered arsenals for being military valour is creating shafts in shared brine. While CPEC is holding its momentum in the region, and Gwadar because of its strategic location in IOR, it becomes very important for Pakistan to conduct such exercises not only to give the message of peaceful nation where peace is restored and Pakistan is focusing on fostering its cordial relations with all states. As maritime security is pivotal for national security and protection of maritime routes is also necessary for the economy such exercises are carried out to bridge the any kind of gap present among countries. While making it possible to not only invite several countries simultaneously, hosting them in best way and making possible to operate together in pursuing shared objectives, Pakistan Navy stands out. Exercise AMAN not only contributes towards regional peace and stability but presence of extra regional navies and displaying with them mutual resolve makes Pakistan Navy shipping in Indian Ocean Region as a herald in journey for collaborative security.

 

The writer works at an Islamabad

based think-tank.