Today's Paper | June 21, 2024

Published 21 Apr, 2024 10:46am


Maritime Security: Challenges & Responses in a Changing World
By Admiral (Retd) Iftikhar Ahmed Rao
IPS Press
ISBN: 978-969-448-834-9

This book by Admiral (Retd) Iftikhar Ahmed Rao is a comprehensive exploration of the multifaceted issues plaguing the maritime domain and the strategic responses necessary to mitigate these challenges. It endeavours to serve as a seminal resource for world powers generally and the Pakistan Navy specifically. It also sheds light on the complexities of maritime security and the formidable challenges therein.

Emphasising the overarching theme of cooperation and collaboration, Maritime Security: Challenges & Responses in a Changing World advocates for the application of these principles both externally, in interactions with other nations, and internally, within the framework of national efforts towards ocean protection and the advancement of the blue economy.

The core objective is to delineate the myriad challenges confronting nations at sea, encompassing threats emanating from the maritime domain and those directed seaward, while also elucidating opportunities and corresponding responses.

The book is divided into three parts: ‘Maritime Security Challenges’ and ‘Maritime Security Response’, along with the third part allocated to ‘Pakistan and its Maritime Security’. Each section offers detailed insights into various aspects of maritime security.

A book by a retired Pakistani admiral presents a holistic study of the multifarious challenges of maritime security and offers recommendations to deal with them

The initial segment of the book deliberates upon the multifaceted challenges imperilling maritime security, a collective responsibility incumbent upon all states. It underscores the imperative of fostering an enabling environment conducive to the development of the blue economy, by comprehensively addressing the multifarious dimensions of maritime military and economic security.

One of the key strengths of this book is its holistic approach to maritime security, which encompasses a wide range of topics, including piracy, terrorism, illegal fishing, environmental degradation and territorial disputes.

In the first part, the book delves into the historical evolution of piracy, tracing its roots from ancient times to the modern era. It explores how piracy has evolved and adapted over centuries, posing significant threats to maritime commerce and security. The author skilfully analyses the factors contributing to the persistence of piracy and highlights the need for international cooperation in combating this age-old menace.

One of the book’s prominent features is that almost all important issues, including piracy and terrorism, are examined through a strategic lens, and this strategic analysis has made it different from simple data or text research. It also attracts strategic policy makers to consult this study while framing policies for maritime security. Admiral Rao effectively highlights the interconnectedness of maritime security threats and underscores the need for a coordinated and collaborative response from the international community.

A section is devoted to the marine environment and the causes of marine pollution and degradation. The author also discusses crimes against the marine environment, much of which occur due to criminal negligence of individuals and organisations, and much more due to lack of awareness on how fragile and valuable marine ecosystems are.

The spectre of maritime terrorism is examined as a sporadic yet potent threat. Interestingly, the author discusses all important maritime cases, including the hijacking of ships and other criminal cases in the seas, but focuses more on robust countermeasures to safeguard maritime security. Here, the facts appear more a collection of data in a chronological study rather than actual analysis.

The author has not neglected other important contemporary issues, such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, firearms trafficking and illegal fishing. Through detailed data analysis, Admiral Rao underscores the linkages of these issues and their profound implications for global security and sustainability. He emphasises the importance of practical measures and collaborative efforts among nations to effectively address these challenges.

Furthermore, Admiral Rao’s emphasis on the role of technology in enhancing maritime security is particularly noteworthy. He focuses on the details of emerging technologies, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, satellite imagery and artificial intelligence, in augmenting the maritime domain. He substantiates his arguments with the help of known case studies and recent examples. The author stresses that technological innovations can be leveraged to alleviate security risks and safeguard maritime interests.

The subsequent section delineates the response mechanisms to the aforementioned challenges, highlighting the necessity of adopting a sustainable and inclusive approach to harnessing maritime resources and, at the same time, preserving the ecological diversity of the seas. The book seems to be advocating for a maritime security strategy built on cooperation and professionalism, avoiding aggression in favour of practical solutions. This is, in fact, Pakistan’s state policy, an idea of cooperation as opposed to a militarisation of the Indian Ocean.

The book also examines the strategic paradigms and approaches of global powers, including the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and China. The part on US maritime strategy is a detailed study including all important factual details about the American naval structure, strategy, planning and possible future objectives. Due to these extensive details, a reader may feel the shallowness or absence of analysis in some places.

A much more detailed part is devoted to India’s maritime security strategy. Beginning from Tipu Sultan’s navy to the present Indian strategic intentions that take India as a burgeoning naval power in the Indian Ocean region, India’s ambitions and strategy for the Indian Ocean are critically analysed. A very pertinent analysis is the comparison of India’s 2007 strategy to the 2009 doctrine.

The third part of the book, about Pakistan’s maritime security posture, is studied comprehensively, both from economic and military standpoints, with strategic prescriptions offered for policy formulation and implementation by the naval establishment.

Despite numerical disparities with its much larger neighbour, the Pakistan Navy is lauded for its professionalism, resilience and steadfastness in navigating challenges with fortitude. The book presents a nuanced strategic outlook, encompassing diverse maritime security scenarios, ranging from peacetime dynamics to scenarios of competition, contestation and coercion. The last portion is the most interesting part of the book, outlining the proposed contours of maritime security.

In summation, the book offers a scholarly exposition on the intricacies of maritime security, providing invaluable insights for policymakers, naval practitioners and scholars alike.

The reviewer is Professor of International Relations and the Dean, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences at the University of Karachi

Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, April 21st, 2024

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