KARACHI: The Pakistan Navy (PN) and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy of China began their fourth joint exercise on Thursday. The exercise will continue till Nov 21.
Though the two navies have held joint exercises three times before, the fourth one, which includes harbour and sea phases, is significant because it is aimed at promoting maritime security and stability in the region with focus on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
This was the underlying message at a media briefing on the exercise held at the Fleet Headquarters.
Commodore Mirza Foad Amin Baig, Commander 18th Destroyer Squadron, told the media that the fourth exercise carried far more importance in the context of the CPEC project. He said the drill was aimed at enhancing security in the strategic region which included port areas and the sea where ships would sail out.
“The previous three joint sea exercises between the PLA and the PN have boosted trust and cooperation between the two navies, which is needed even more now as we set forth in a new direction of trade through the Gwadar port,” said Flotilla Commander Chinese Naval Force, Senior Captain Chi Qingtao.
“The [fourth] exercise will help improve the naval capability of both countries to protect Gwadar port activities while providing a safe and conducive environment for the movement of merchant ships from there,” he added.
Speaking through an interpreter, he said that in addition to enjoying “solid friendship”, Pakistan and China shared waters and mountains, “which we will protect together”.
For taking part in the exercise Chinese naval ships Changxingdao and Handan had reached Karachi on Wednesday.
Providing details of the exercise, Commodore Baig said that it would have harbour and sea phases.
“The harbour phase is already in progress and consists of various visits to each other’s ships along with discussions that will serve as a warm-up for the sea phase,” he explained.
“The sea phase of the exercise afterwards will be conducted in the open sea. It will cover a wide spectrum of maritime and naval operations involving ships, helicopters, maritime patrol aircraft, joint boarding operations by special forces, air defence exercises, communication drills and several joint manoeuvres by the ships of both navies,” he added.
He said the exercise was aimed at exchanging and making use of combined maritime operations to ensure a stable maritime environment which was vital for the economic stability, growth, peace and security of the region.
“The exercise is reflective of a strong mutual desire to improve the level of coordination and interoperability at operational and tactical levels,” he said.
“The navies of both China and Pakistan enjoy an all-weather relationship with joint maritime collaboration, including regular exchange visits of senior naval leadership and fleet units, joint construction of naval ships and submarines, PLA(N)’s regular participation in Aman series of exercises, and annual joint SOF exercises. The current visit of PLA (N) ships to Karachi and... this bilateral exercise is a testimony of the same,” he added.
Highlighting Pakistan’s efforts in the fight against terrorism, he said the government of Pakistan, its armed forces and its people were engaged in fighting terrorists for over a decade now.
“Pakistan Navy is actively pursuing the government’s policies and has taken a number of measures to promote peace and stability in the maritime commons of the world’s most important sea route through regular participation in Multinational Task Forces CTF 150 and CTF 151.
“Similarly, PLA (N) is actively engaged in the efforts to thwart terrorism and piracy in the Indian Ocean region through continuous deployment of a task force,” he said.
Senior Captain Chi Qingtao said the exercise would further refine the operational capabilities of both the navies.
Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2016