Collaborative security in the Indian Ocean
“Control of the sea by maritime commerce and naval supremacy means predominant influence in the world; because, however great the wealth product of the land, nothing facilitates the necessary exchanges as does the sea.”
—Alfred Thayer Mahan American Naval Strategist
Pakistan Navy successfully hosted the sixth multinational maritime exercise “Aman-19” in Karachi from 8 to 12 February 2019, with a firm resolve displayed by the 46 participating countries under the title “Together for Peace”. The five-day multinational exercise was conducted in two phases – the harbour phase and the sea phase. Other than seminars, table talks, cross-ship visits and an international band display, the harbour phase also included a three-day international maritime conference on ‘Global Geopolitics in Transition: Rethinking Maritime Dynamics in the Indian Ocean Region’. The principal purpose of the exercise was to provide a forum for understanding each other’s maritime concepts and operational cultures, and come up with ways and means to combat common threats at sea.
In February, Pakistan Navy hosted, in Karachi, a massive maritime exercise Aman-19 with 46 participating countries. The exercise was anchored on the concept of ‘peace across the globe’ and was aimed to display a united resolve against the growing maritime terrorism and crimes. Under its motto, ‘Together for Peace’, the exercise brought the navies of the East and the West on a common platform for the good of global commons. It also provided participating countries with opportunities to foster friendships, which could lead them to develop and practice common tactics, procedures and mechanics to deal with the maritime threats that affected them all.
Aman-19 was the sixth exercise of the Aman series. It was aptly named “Aman” (Peace) as it showed Pakistan’s resolve and commitment towards global peace and prosperity as it was aimed at boosting joint operational capabilities of the participating countries’ naval forces for peace and stability in the region. The exercise also depicted Pakistan as an important regional player and the one that wishes to work in harmony and collaboration with all regional countries for the common objectives of peace, stability and economic prosperity. As they say, weakness invites aggression, and that drills in peace time prepare the forces for any real conflict situation, Pakistan Navy believes in staying ever-ready and alert to safeguard its maritime sovereignty.
The objectives of Aman-2019 included projecting a positive image of Pakistan as a nuclear state contributing towards regional peace and stability, displaying united resolve against terrorism and crimes in maritime domain, developing coalition building and multi-layer security cooperation to promote a safe and sustainable maritime environment, enhancing tactical interoperability between regional and extra-regional navies thereby acting as a bridge between the regions and last but not least validating response, tactics, techniques and procedures to counter non-traditional threats in maritime domain.
While detailed operational evaluation of Aman-19, will take some time to collate and evaluate, some prominent lessons that are discernible are as follows:
1. Aman series of exercises continues to be a credible forum for understanding each other’s maritime concepts and operational cultures and evolving ways and means to combat common threats at sea.
2. Maritime security has become quintessentially cooperative instead of being competitive.
3. Maritime security is pivotal for national security, and protection of maritime routes is essential to boost the national economy.
4. Aman is a formidable platform for bridging gaps and interoperability to pursue shared objectives.
5. The mega exercise substantiated the level of confidence in PN by the extra-regional and regional navies, and improved security environments in Pakistan. It also specifies that Pakistan enjoys a very respectable status in the comity of nations.
6. PN’s exercise enabled the service to foster friendships amongst participating countries, leading to the development and practice common tactics, procedures and mechanics to deal with the maritime threats prevalent in contemporary times. PN has risen in esteem through its professional expertise and the ability to host a major event like the Aman series of multi-national exercises speaks volumes about its prestige.
Pakistan and the IOR
Robert D. Kaplan contends that the Greater Indian Ocean, stretching eastward from the Horn of Africa including Indian Subcontinent all the way to the Indonesian archipelago and beyond may comprise a map as iconic to the 21st century as Europe was to the previous one. With all the geopolitics in motion, he asserts, this century will be less violent than the last one, but to a similar degree, it could have a recognizable geography. In this greater water stretch, there lies ganglia of global energy routes and quite seemingly inexorable rise of developing Asian nations. The zone is a vital conduit that offers trade routes to Africa, the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and Australia. It has abundance of maritime economic resources. Pakistan is one of the important stakeholders in the Indian Ocean security framework, whether it is piracy, maritime terrorist activities, gun running, human or narco-trafficking. Being a major player in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Pakistan has been playing its role as a responsible maritime nation to promote regional peace and harmony.
Maritime security challenges in the Indian Ocean have acquired international dimensions. Cooperation between international navies, therefore, is imperative to counter these emerging threats. Pakistan being a major stakeholder in maritime security of Indian Ocean Region is fully committed to ensure freedom of navigation and lawful maritime order. Hosting and conduct of series of Multinational Naval Exercise AMAN under the auspices of Pakistan Navy is a big stride towards this direction. The Aman-19 had larger participation of countries across the globe, with their warships, aircraft, helicopters, Special Operation Forces, Explosive Ordnance Teams, Marines and Observers which is conspicuous manifestation of poise and confidence on Pakistan in joining hands for common resolve of peace, stability and lawful order at sea. The exercise has also served as a reflection of the strong ties between Pakistan and global navies and is a display of converging strategic interests which will go a long way in promoting maritime security and stability in the region.
Amidst a major realignment phase in global geopolitics, the navy has become a major tool to project force, create goodwill throughout the region and increase Pakistan’s influence in the region. With participation from 46 navies,
the exercise further cemented Pakistan Navy’s role as a leading and professional naval force not only in the Arabian Sea region but also in the larger area of the Indian Ocean. It will also strengthen Pakistan’s positive image as well as its command and control within the IOR.
Pakistan Navy has always been a forerunner in the quest for collaborative security in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), an area of immense strategic importance. The Indian Ocean acts as a strategic gateway for food, maritime transportation and energy supplies to the world and the presence of major powers in the IOR signifies its importance under a complex security environment.
Concept & Objectives
The concept of AMAN revolves around information-sharing, mutual understanding and identifying areas of common interests for participating navies with emphasis on maritime security operations, counterterrorism operations and humanitarian assistance operation. Based on this, the exercise seeks to develop and practice Response Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (RTTP) for maritime infrastructure, assets and forces against traditional and nontraditional threats.
The concept of exercise is designed to:
- Provide common forum for information sharing, mutual understanding and identifying areas of common interests.
- Develop and practice response tactics, techniques and procedures against asymmetric and traditional threats during sea phase of the exercise.
- Intermingling of multinationals with depiction of their respective cultures.
The exercise is planned with focused objectives which are as under:
- Display of united resolve against terrorism and crimes in maritime domain.
- Contributing towards regional peace and stability.
- Enhancing interoperability between regional and extra- regional navies thereby acting as a bridge between the regions.