Dr. Azhar Ahmad
Indian Ocean today is arguably the most important water space on the globe. From Mahan to Kaplan all strategists have acknowledged the political as well as economic significance of this ocean. The ocean remains unique in the sense that it has not produced an indigenous maritime power in the modern history; at least not since Oman was defeated by the Portuguese in the 16th century. This ocean is home to some of the world’s most disparate nations; which differ widely in their socio-cultural and economic demeanor. This diversity has often helped the Extra-Regional Forces to maintain their stranglehold on the region by exploiting the differences and weaknesses of the littorals. Presence of large amounts of hydrocarbons and minerals in the Arabian Gulf and Central Asia has given a special status to this ocean, particularly the North Arabian Sea which has become a conduit of energy for the world. The tremendous resources provided by nature also attract greed and intrigue and have their own share of challenges. These challenges arise from unstable geopolitical situation and diverse economic, political, social environment; resulting into traditional, non-traditional, symmetrical and asymmetrical threats. These threats in return require attention and cooperation of all stake holders- regional and extra-regional.
Pakistan occupies a strategic position at the crown of the Indian Ocean. 95 % of Pakistan’s trade by volume and 100% of its oil imports are routed through the North Arabian Sea. With such an envious geographical location astride the energy jugular of the world and its complete dependence on these waters, Pakistan is an important stake-holder in the Indian Ocean security framework. Thus, Pakistan has always been a vocal proponent of peace and freedom of navigation, particularly in the Indian Ocean and the country has played its due role in promoting harmony and cooperation in the region. Pakistan Navy being the guardian of country’s maritime interests has remained at the forefront in displaying Pakistan’s peaceful and cooperative intent. Therefore, despite given resource constraints, PN has participated in all genuine cooperative efforts in the region.
Pakistan Navy became first regional navy to become the member of Combined Maritime Forces in 2004 to check illegal activities in the region. Since then Pakistan Navy has actively participated in activities of Task Forces 150 and 151. Recently, Pakistan Navy has taken initiative of independent Regional Maritime Security Patrols (RMSP) in Indian Ocean to curb the menace of maritime piracy, terrorism and human trafficking. In addition, Pakistan Navy also participates in other international forums such as the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium and Western Pacific Naval Symposium besides conducting bilateral and multilateral exercises with a number of countries. Pakistan Navy has also contributed in disaster relief operations. Its high quality manpower has been instrumental in training a large number of officers and men of allied navies.
Keeping with its tradition for promoting harmony in the region, Pakistan Navy launched an initiative in 2007 by the name ‘AMAN’,literally ‘Peace’. The first multilateral exercise was held in March 2007 in North Arabian Sea. It was unique in a sense that the Chinese Navy participated for the first time in such international event. Consequently, upon success of the first exercise AMAN-07,Pakistan Navy decided to make it a biennial event. The slogan for the exercise is “Together for Peace” and depicts the true spirit behind the endeavour. All the navies participating in the exercise have a common objective of ensuring peace and stability in the maritime arena to provide freedom of navigation and uninterrupted flow of trade. The exercise at sea is aimed to enhance tactical proficiency, develop common tactics against asymmetric threats and promote interoperability amongst the participating units.
Five exercises of the AMAN series have been conducted so far which have enhanced not only Pakistan Navy’s professional abilities but also added to the national prestige. The concept of AMAN revolves around information sharing, mutual understanding and identifying areas of common interest for participating navies with emphasis on maritime security operations, anti-terrorists operations, and humanitarian assistance operations. Based on this concept, the exercise seeks to develop and improve Response Tactics Techniques and Procedures (RTTP) for protection of Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs) and maritime infrastructure, assets and forces against non-traditional threats.
AMAN Exercise blends theory and practice to achieve its objective of combating contemporary challenges in the maritime domain. Multifarious activities at sea involve, boarding drills, deck landings, surface firing, maritime interdiction operations, coordinated Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) exercises, Air Defence exercises and an International Fleet Review which includes Replenishment at Sea and ‘fly-past’ by aircraft of various participating countries.
A very significant component of this event is the International Maritime Conference, organized in tandem, by the National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA), Bahria University. The conference provides an excellent platform to benefit from the experience and research of practitioners as well as academics. Reputed experts on maritime subjects are invited from Pakistan and all over the world to discuss various themes related to contemporary maritime issues. The presence of a large number of naval officers from different countries and a selected number of international scholars provides local mariners, scholars, students and the public at large, a rare opportunity to interact with and understand the intricacies of the maritime arena.
The sixth event of the series AMAN-19 is being held in the first quarter of 2019at Karachi in which more than 40 regional and extra regional countries areparticipating.The sea phase scheduled later will be instrumental in enhancing tactical and operational readiness amongst its participating navies.
Participation of such a large number of countries in the exercise is a testament that the international community appreciates Pakistan’s efforts for peace and security and is willing to join hands with Pakistan for creating greater harmony and cooperation in the Indian Ocean.