Blue Economy strengthening maritime economy and security

Oceanic economy is a practicable factor in the economic growth and sustainable development offering greater opportunities as well as challenges and risks. In the past few decades, Indian Ocean has played a sig­nificant role in terms of enabling eco­nomic security, international trade, sustainable development, people to people connection, livelihoods and mil­itary development. The inception of “blue economy” aims for sustainable development and management of the oceanic resources along with enhanc­ing human welfare in a way to over­come the resources scarcity along with waste disposal.

This concept visualizes ocean as a development spaces in which various activities for instance conservation, sustainable energy production, min­eral wealth extraction, bio-prospect­ing and marine transport are integrat­ed. However, the Indian Ocean States are already contributing to their econ­omies through utilizing the maritime resources including, fisheries, offshore oil and gas, tourism and maritime in­dustries but oceans does not recogniz­es the geopolitical boundaries along its ecosystems thus raising the competi­tive exploitation at a very fast speed. In developing states and especially to the people of Pakistan the idea of blue economy is still new but emerging as a significant long term sustainable eco­nomic development involving social and environmental factors to boost the country’s GDP.

Seeing through the lens of maritime state, Pakistan has inherited 1050 km long coastline and the Exclusive Eco­nomic Zone (EEZ) which covers ap­proximately 240,000 square km with the additional 50,000 km added to Pa­kistan’s EEZ by the United Nations mak­ing it to 290,000 sq km providing ample of economic opportunities for sustain­able development in terms of uplifting economic activities, international trade opportunities, employment generation, and strengthening maritime indus­try. On the daily basis over 15 million barrels of crude oil is shipped right across the Pakistani coast from Gulf States through the Persian Gulf, which increases the importance of unexplored Maritime resources.

After the successful inclusion of Chi­na Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and development of Gwadar Port has further strengthened its geo-strategic and geo-military significance as well as increased the geo economic impor­tance of Pakistan in the region2. Under­standing the importance of Maritime affairs and its significance towards the national development, it is need of an hour to boost the pace of maritime economy generation and maritime transportation to further enhance the capabilities of local industries; ship­ping industry, creation of Special Eco­nomic Zones (SEZs) to compete in the international market where the num­ber of shipping is crossed over 6 mil­lion active vessels and according to es­timates the numbers will be doubled by the year 2020 worldwide.

In the past two decades, the Indian Ocean has gained significance with the emerging maritime strategies and doc­trines in the perspective of sea pow­er and exploiting maritime resources to generate economy vis a vis military substance. As the world is modern­izing the importance of sea and land connectivity is growing at a fast pace for instance, the economic prosperity through seas and oceans to protect the national interests against non-tradi­tional threats are the emerging factor3.

The constant shifts in the paradigm of Indian Ocean have enforced to re­alize that the objectives of maritime economy cannot be achieved without sustained maritime security. With the growing times the horizon of securi­ty is overlapping with economy, envi­ronment and strategic spheres. Howev­er, in contemporary scenario, Pakistan Navy is playing a pivotal role in devel­oping the blue economy aligning with maritime security objectives.

The present Naval Chief Admiral Zafar Mehmood Abbasi envisioned for devel­oping a strong maritime military mus­cle to protect the maritime interests of Pakistan. Similarly, the maritime doc­trine of Pakistan brings the attention towards the strong maritime muscle in terms of merchant marine, harbours, shipyards, ship repair facilities, ma­rine scientific research and other sup­porting programs under the umbrel­la of maritime industry, all shielded by a robust navy. It will not only strength­en the maritime zone but stands firm in protecting and preserving the maritime interests of the state via maritime diplo­macy along with creating awareness in general public, media, public-private in­dustry to portray a comprehensive pic­ture of the national maritime challeng­es and the way forward to overcome the hurdles. Further, to exploit the un­tapped economic opportunities from the maritime sector, Pakistan Navy is keenly working to attain sustainable blue economy. In a visit to Malaysia the Naval Chief Admiral Zafar Mehmood Abbasi has proposed that Malaysia and Pakistan through joint venture can build a sustainable blue economy to avail economic opportunities as well as strengthening the naval ties.

The diversity of China Pakistan Eco­nomic Corridor and especially the lo­cation of Gwadar Port have captured the spot light due to the geo-strategic importance in the region. It will con­nect Central Asian Republics (CARs) to the world through Pakistan as a center point where most of the routes con­verge at one point. According to esti­mates China’s 75 percent of transpor­tation and trade with Central Asian Republics (CARs) will pass through uti­lizing these routes where oil, coal and agricultural products will be shipped from the Gwadar port hence making it a key commercial center for the eco­nomic belt. Realizing the potential of sustained maritime industry by open­ing new ventures of economic coopera­tion will have meaningful consequenc­es on the global economy and politics. Likewise, it will bring ample of new op­portunities for the business sector to increases access in the global market as well as will be beneficial in generating new employment opportunities.

The significance of the emerging blue economy is dependent on the sustaina­ble use of oceanic resources as they are essential for the development of Paki­stan’s maritime sector. The Naval Chief in a conference stated, “On our na­tional front, Pakistan has commenced ‘Regional Maritime Security Patrols’ (RMSP) which aims to maintain secu­rity posture in critical sea areas and choke points in the Indian Ocean”. Keeping in view Pakistan’s strategic lo­cation in context with developing mari­time economy, stronger maritime secu­rity through stronger navy is the need of the hour to be prepared for the chal­lenges and to chalk down the effective strategies for the development of the maritime sector.

Coastal and Marine tourism refers to sea and land based activities along with other recreational activities. It promotes tourism and also significant­ly boosts economic development by bringing foreign exchange earnings of import and export related goods and services; contributes to government revenues and helps in generating new employment opportunities. Although, Pakistan has no comprehensive assess­ment of coastal and marine tourism but apart from Karachi coast, most part of the coastline is free from pollution and offer pristine environment for the tour­ists with the availability of Pre-requi­site road infrastructure to promote Ma­rine Aqua-tourism.

Pakistan Navy has also drawn the at­tention towards the importance of de­veloping marine tourism which will help in assisting the promotion of the blue economy4. This untapped sector has a huge potential if exploited to its true potential it will directly contrib­ute to the GDP. Similarly, if Balochistan can be developed on the same lines it will not only attract tourists from with­in the country but has a capacity to at­tract foreign tourists and will contrib­ute in the economy as well as portray a peaceful picture of the country.

The geo-strategic location of Paki­stan on the most critical maritime route in the Indian Ocean where 80 percent of the world’s seaborne trade passes through the Strait of Malacca, an impor­tant sea line of communications (SLOCs) and chokepoint across the world. There­fore, if utilized to its true potential Paki­stan can convert the vast area of

Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) into a hub of blue economy owing to its poten­tial in maritime and energy resources.  

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