CPEC & AMAN 2023: Socio-Economic, Geopolitical & Geostrategic Significances | By Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

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CPEC & AMAN 2023: Socio-Economic, Geopolitical & Geostrategic Significances

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Phase-II has been approved and initiated in the country. Hopefully, with the completion, commencement, operationalization and channelization of Gwadar Seaport, the blue economy of the country, will be further developed in the days to come.

Due to rapidly changing and conflicting socio-economic partnerships nationalized geopolitical priorities and last but not the least contradicting geostrategic preferences in the region as well as around the globe, the role of Pakistan Navy (PN) has become permanently paramount in the region.

In this connection, the blockade of Ukraine seaports in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, subsequent wheat shipment through seaports, temporary non-functioning of Suez Canal, imminent Iranian threat to disturb the Strait of Hormuz in case of failure of ongoing Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), NATO Eastern expansion in the Black Sea and heavy presence in the Indo-Pacific Region, sieging of South China Sea/Taiwan by the allied/anti-China forces, the US China containment policy in the shape of the formation and activation of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) and the trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States (AUKUS) are strong manifestations of the US and allied forces in the Indo-Pacific region and last but not the least, India’s increasing naval force and obsession of nuclear submarines has encouraged the PN to take all possible measures to protect its vested interests.

It seems that success of the CPEC Phase-II is directly correlated with the PN’s “operationalization” and “channelization”. On its part, the PN being custodian of blue economy, coastal areas, shores and waters of the country is utilizing all possible resources to safeguard the security and commercial interests of the CPEC. In this connection, holding of AMAN 2023 would be a value addition to further enhance the PN professional capabilities and tactical preparedness in the days to come.

Hopefully, AMAN-2023 will be a giant step in its future capacity building measures. The main theme of AMAN-2023 is “peace” which means through peace the “pace”, “production” and “prosperity” of the Gwadar seaport will be further enhanced. Obviously, AMAN-2023 has multiple socio-economic, geopolitical and geostrategic implications. The Indian Ocean has been further fragile. The PN will host more than 40-45 countries in AMAN-2023. It will further consolidate the PN’s strong commitment to protect its vested interests in the freedom of the seas. Moreover, it would eliminate Indian Ocean illicit activities in all their forms and manifestations. It also emphasizes developing combined potential for humanitarian assistance in the region.

The AMAN-2023 aims to collectively work against human trafficking, smuggling of narcotics and weapons and terrorism in the region. It has plans to intensify operational maneuvers against sea pirates and improve joint operations at sea through effective intelligence sharing mechanisms. Definitely, it will further enhance operational skills through contemporary experiences. It will ensure interoperability in a diverse threat environment. It will address the issue of climate change and highlight the significance of CPEC-I & CPEC Phase-II, including the Gwadar port, before the delegates of the participating countries.

The PN has been pursuing a holistic and comprehensive policy to achieve flawless maritime security. Since 2007 the PN has been holding a series of bilateral, trilateral and international naval exercises, especially AMAN due to which the PN has become an active partner in international naval coalitions.

Truly, 80-90 global trade is carried through water in which energy shipment and food security is also done through seas. The future of the blue economy is directly correlated with maritime security in which PN is scaling new heights of “productivity”, “efficacy” and “vigilance”. It has to face national as well as regional maritime threats for which it has been trained and motivated.

The PN is responsible to defend CPEC Phase-II projects, easy and smooth Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC) open and protection of Pakistan’s Coast Areas (PCAs) as well as the ports of Karachi, Bin-Qasim, Ormara and Gwadar.

In this context, a special organization namely Task Force-88 (TF-88) has already been formed to the seaward security of Gwadar Port and protection of Associated Sea Lanes (ASLs) against both conventional and non-traditional threats.

It comprises 400 marines that specialize in defending marine assets/projects both on-shore and seaward, against threats emanating from sub-surface, surface and aerial. It has been equipped with suitable platforms comprising gunboats, frigates, Fast Attack Craft, aircraft and drones as well as other electronic surveillance means. Moreover, it takes care of harbour defence , shore-based anti-aircraft artillery, fast patrol craft and surveillance system comprising radars, drones and aerial surveillance systems.

The PN has been playing a vital role in the national security domain by “mitigating” a series of Non-Conventional Threats, such as climate change, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, illegal immigration, smuggling of arms and drugs, piracy and maritime terrorism. Furthermore, the PN also “combats” with Conventional Security Threats and defends more than a thousand-kilometer coastline. Now it is protecting” the “commercial”, “infrastructural development” and “logistic apparatus” of Pakistan by taking all possible measures to address the challenges originating from the maritime dimension of CPEC Phase-II projects.

The PN has adopted a multifaceted holistic approach to deal with the prevailing state & non-state threats and challenges such as beefing up security of Gwadar Port, conducting security patrols and coastal exercises, enhancing Maritime Domain Awareness and engaging in Collaborative Maritime Security with regional and extra-regional navies.

Now the Pakistan Navy is in charge of the security of Gwadar Port and its infrastructure. It has also stationed a Force Protection Battalion of Pak Marines along with requisite assets and equipment, both afloat and ashore, to ensure security of the Port.

It is hoped that economic prosperity brought about by the mega projects of CPEC Phase-II will defeat the motives of terrorists as, with the success of the project, more employment and business opportunities will be unlocked and people’s livelihood will be improved.

To conclude, AMAN-2023 is a multidimensional exercise. It consists of harbour, sea, underwater, aerial and Special Forces activities. It would be the biggest ever multinational naval exercise to be held in February 2023 at Karachi. In this regard, invitation to more than 110 countries has been sent. Hopefully more than 45 countries will participate in this international mega event. Previously, the PN has successfully hosted seven AMAN naval exercises in Karachi attended by foreign navies from around the world over the past 18 years. AMAN-2023 will also have its maiden Pakistan International Maritime Expo and conference in January and February.

According to reliable naval sources, the AMAN-2023 would be divided into harbour and sea phases. In harbour phase, maritime counter-terrorism demos would be performed by Pakistan Navy Special Services Group (SSG) troops and Pakistan international maritime expo and conference would be key events; while under sea phase, PN would perform rocket depth charge firing, surface firing on killer tomato, which are most liked and popular events.

According to the latest figures (December 2022), the Indian Ocean is connected with 29 littoral states and 6 island nations. It is the main artery of the world’s oceanic trade. About 80% of the world’s oil trade passes through the Indian Ocean. Its shores are home to 23 of the world’s top 100 container ports. Thus, the sea lanes in the Indian Ocean are vital for dry, liquid and gaseous cargoes and their worldwide supply chain. In this regard, AMAN-2023 stands for peace, stability and security in the Indian Ocean and is important for the world economy as well.