China-Pakistan joint drills strengthen ties, enhance interoperability between the two navies: GT exclusive interview with Pakistani naval chief



The Pakistan Navy plans to host the AMAN-23 multinational maritime exercise in February 2023, with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, having taken part in previous editions, are again expected to participate. China and Pakistan have been maintaining close naval and maritime exchanges and cooperation in recent years, including joint drills, enhanced by Pakistan’s procurement of four advanced Type 054A/P frigates from China. Shortly before the Exercise AMAN-23, Global Times reporter Liu Xuanzun (GT) was granted an exclusive interview with Admiral M Amjad Khan Niazi (Adm. Niazi), chief of the naval staff of the Pakistan Navy, and discussed topics ranging from the exercise plan and the Pakistan Navy’s equipment procurement plan from China to the PLA Navy in the eyes of the Pakistan Navy.

GT: Please briefly elaborate on the upcoming Exercise AMAN-23. When and where will it be held, and who is going to participate?

Adm. Niazi: Exercise AMAN is the premier multinational maritime exercise of the Pakistan Navy which has been conducted biennially since 2007. The exercise is conducted with the aim to develop synergy between participating naval units to tackle maritime security challenges by enhancing interoperability between regional and extra regional navies at different levels of technological prowess. The eighth series of Exercise AMAN will be held in Karachi from February 10 to 14, 2023. The format of the exercise has two distinct phases: First, the harbor phase which will be held from February 10 to 12, followed by the sea phase from February 13 to 14.

During the harbor phase, various professional and social activities will be conducted to share experiences on contemporary maritime security challenges and coordinate modalities of sea exercises. The sea phase includes exercises and an international fleet review to demonstrate unified resolve against maritime terrorism, piracy, and other prevalent illicit activities at sea.

We are expecting a wide range of participation from across the globe, as 43 countries participated in Exercise AMAN-21 despite COVID-19 restrictions. I am confident that Exercise AMAN-23 will contribute significantly toward fulfilling the common desire of participating maritime nations for regional peace and shared prosperity through such collaborative efforts.

GT: What are your purposes and goals for conducting the exercise?

Adm. Niazi: There are a number of non-traditional threats that prevail in the wider Indian Ocean region such as terrorism, piracy, drugs smuggling, and arms trafficking. The vastness of the oceans makes the maritime arena an attractive avenue for illegal activities and no country has the capability to singlehandedly counter these challenges. Collaborative maritime security has thus evolved as an established norm and the Pakistan Navy is actively involved in international and regional efforts. Exercise AMAN is Pakistan’s humble but focused initiative in this regard.

The word AMAN in Urdu means “Peace” and the motto of the exercise is “Together for Peace” which demonstrates the importance and united resolve of all participating countries and partners in this cause. The AMAN series of multinational exercises is significant in fostering regional cooperation for the maintenance of good order at sea, improving interoperability, sharing experiences, and exhibiting common resolve against terrorism and organized crimes in the maritime domain. Participation in this exercise has been growing at a steady pace since its inception, with the exception of AMAN-21 in view of the COVID environment. The increased participation reflects growing trust in the value of the exercise and acknowledgement of the Pakistan Navy’s efforts in promoting collaboration between regional and extra regional navies in the face of diverse non-traditional security threats.

GT: Other than AMAN, the PLA Navy and the Pakistan Navy recently have had close exchanges and cooperation, including the Sea Guardian-2 joint exercise held in Shanghai in July. Why is it so important to hold joint exercise like this for both the PLA Navy and the Pakistan Navy?

Adm. Niazi: Pakistan Navy-PLA Navy relations are a reflection of Pakistan-China strategic ties and range from training exchanges to high-level visits, port calls by ships, navy-to-navy expert-level staff talks, and the regular conducting of bilateral exercises. I may highlight that the PLA Navy is among the world’s leading navies that now operates regularly in the Indian Ocean region, making collaborative maritime security our common interest for ensuring maritime security in the region. Pakistan Navy-PLA Navy interaction also provides an opportunity to enhance interoperability, share experiences to optimally utilize common sensors, iron out procedures, and further elevate our relations.

In this regard, the Sea Guardian series of exercises serve the objectives of fostering interoperability and sharing professional experiences to deal with contemporary traditional and non-traditional security threats. During Exercise Sea Guardian-2 conducted off Shanghai from July 10 to 13, 2022, the PNSTaimur along with PLA Navy frigates Xiangtan and Shuozhou, supply shipQiandaohu, submarine, and aviation units including early warning aircraft and fighter aircraft participated. The evolutions at sea included joint maneuvers, anti-surface, anti-air, and anti-submarine drills which provided a useful opportunity to strengthen naval ties and enhance interoperability between the two navies.

GT: In tandem with Exercise AMAN-23, the Pakistan Navy will also hold the first Pakistan International Maritime Expo and Conference (PIMEC). What is PIMEC?

Adm. Niazi: The Pakistan International Maritime Expo and Conference, or PIMEC, is an initiative of the Pakistan Navy to showcase the potential of Pakistan’s maritime sector and draw attention to the contribution that the maritime industry can make toward the development of our blue economy. The expo aims to bring together stakeholders and companies, both international and domestic, from various maritime fields to exploit the potential offered by the blue economy. The three-day expo will provide an opportunity for business to government (B2G) and business to business (B2B) interactions for joint ventures and investments in Pakistan’s maritime sector.