KARACHI: “Like any maritime nation, Pakistan has substantial stakes in the maritime domain. Our extraordinary dependence on the seas for trade, the CPEC project and our strategic location astride the global energy highway are the three most important reasons for Pakistan to ensure a safer and crime-free sea,” said Commander Pakistan Fleet Vice Admiral Amjad Khan Niazi while briefing the media ahead of the five-day multinational naval exercise Aman-2019 here on Thursday.
The exercise, conducted after every two years since it was initiated in 2007, will have the navies of 45 countries with Pakistan as the 46th one taking part in the action. The principal purpose of this exercise is to provide a forum for understanding of each other’s maritime concepts and operational cultures and come up with ways and means to combat common threats at sea.
Stressing the motto of the exercise “Together for peace”, Vice Admiral Niazi said maritime security should be quintessentially cooperative instead of being competitive. “Let us be mindful of the threats and challenges that we face at seas which range from piracy to terrorism to climate change. It calls for a collective effort to make sure the seas remain safe and secure for all of our use,” he said.
Aman-2019 aims to bridge gaps and make it possible to operate together in pursuance of shared objectives
He added that the exercise also brought up a chance to help foster friendship among the participating countries, which would lead to develop and practice common tactics, procedures and mechanics to deal with the maritime threats that affected them all. “Overall, the Aman Exercise is about bridging gaps and making it possible to operate together in pursuance of shared objectives,” he said.
The exercise will be conducted in two phases. “There will be the harbour phase from Friday (today) to Sunday followed by the sea phase on Feb 11 and 12. Harbour activities would include seminars, discussions and demonstrations along with a three-day international maritime conference on “Global geopolitics in transition: rethinking maritime dynamics in the Indian Ocean region”, said the commander of Pakistan Fleet, adding that the country had gone through a turbulent phase of its contemporary history, but it remained steadfast in fighting the forces of terror and tyranny. “Despite countless sacrifices and losses, Pakistan continues to be a responsible state cognizant of its role and significance in the international system,” he said.
Replying to a question, Vice Admiral Niazi said the exercise would include the Pakistan Navy’s ships, submarines, boats, marines and special forces along with the participation of the Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Army and Pakistan Rangers as well.
About the difference in size and technology between the navies of Pakistan and India, the commander of Pakistan Fleet said the Indian Navy was five to six times bigger than the Pakistan Navy. “But their coastline is also five to six times bigger than Pakistan’s so they need to defend a bigger area. We don’t need to hold competition with them. Our navy is quite capable of protecting our interests and its size is appropriate for doing that,” he said.
He gave details about the ships, submarines and gun boats the Pakistan Navy is buying from China, Turkey, etc, and said: “We are also making our air arm stronger with new helicopters, etc.”
Answering another question about blue economy, he said Pakistan’s marine territory, including continental shelf, was bigger than any of the country’s provinces but the country had not used any of the resources in the waters. “We know that the area is very rich with plenty of resources for which a China Geological Survey ship is surveying here since December. It will take the samples and findings to the labs in China to return for exploration later,” he said.
About cooperation from other countries to make the CPEC lanes safe, he clarified that ensuring security in Gwadar and its surrounding sea areas was solely the responsibility of the Pakistan Navy. “We have our Task Force-88, our aircraft, helicopters, ships, small vessels and craft showing our presence there and doing the job to give confidence to the merchant ships that come here for trade. They should remain free of worry about piracy, smugglers or any other threat such as maritime terrorism,” he said.
He said Aman-2019 was mostly a non-firing exercise as they only carried out live weapon firing in a marked area known to all ships. “But Aman-2019 will reinforce the confidence of [other] countries in Pakistan and the Pakistan Navy. So the message goes out as relations, especially diplomatic relations, between countries are improved,” he said.
Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2019