Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

CHINA-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has become a “jewel” of Pakistan’s socio-economic prosperity and sustainable development. Being flagship project of the One Belt & One Road Initiative (BRI) the CPEC has multiplier socio-economic, geopolitical and geostrategic ramifications for the South Asia, Central Asia Region (CAR) and even Western Indian Ocean Region (WIOC) in terms of greater regional connectivity, food and energy cooperation, easy and smooth imports & exports through maritime means and last but not least, further development of blue economy.

The President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi while addressing the international maritime conference (IMC-21) during AMAN-21 exercise showcased Pakistan’s commitment to peace, reinforce regional maritime security and enhance interoperability between regional and extra-regional navies. He termed global peace, rather than confrontation should be the way forward. The President also highlighted the strategic importance of the BRI & CPEC which provides the shortest route for the Central Asian States and China to import and export their goods through Gwadar.

The AJK President projected Pakistan’s positive and productive role in the region having a coastline of 1,000km, and a combined maritime area of 290,000 square-km, which included territorial waters, the Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf. He proposed a future looking policy to utilize hidden treasures of the Indian Ocean Region and other seas and oceans. In his opening remarks, Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Amjad Khan Niazi highlighted Pakistan Navy’s efforts for promoting maritime awareness in the country along with promoting blue economy through a variety of initiatives including international and regional collaborative security mechanisms.

Professor Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal of Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, presented a critical analysis on the ‘Emerging geo-strategic environment and Indo-Pacific strategy’ and highlighted Pakistan’s positive, productive and participatory role in regional peace, stability and maritime security. India’s persistence mad arms-race especially, naval force procurement/build-up, existence of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) comprising USA, India, Japan, Australia navies, activation of US warship in the Arabian Sea and Indian’s conflicting socio-economic policies against (BRI& CPEC), widening geopolitical (US-China trade war) and last but not the least, booming (US-India Strategic Dialogue) all have, pushed Pakistan to follow its own peaceful narratives and initiatives like AMAN which stands for collective maritime security and diplomacy.

We are living in a complex and complicated world where structural realism plays a very important role. Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is a mishmash of multifarious challenges. It brings with it a clash of strategic interests, competing economies and power struggles between regional and extra, regional powers. Maritime security and diplomacy is the way forward for securing our waters, shores, blue economy and commercial interests and AMAN-21 stands for regional peace, security, development and maritime diplomacy. According to world maritime statistical data (2019-2020), roughly 90 percent of the global trade is carried out via the shipping industry and transferred to more than 4,000 ports worldwide, making these vital arteries responsible for handling goods worth more than $4 trillion annually which also verifies strategic importance of the CPEC, Gwadar seaport and, of course, AMAN-21.

The Greater Indian Ocean Region (GICR) stretches eastward from the Horn of Africa past Arabian Peninsula, the Iranian plateau, and the Indian sub-continent, all the way to the Indonesian archipelago and beyond, may comprise a map as iconic to the new century as Europe was to the last one’. The IOR includes 36 littoral and 11 hinterland states making a total of 47 independent states. The region is home to some 2.6 billion inhabitants making up 40 percent of the world population. It also accounts for more than 10 percent of the global GDP. In this connection, the role of CPEC, Gwadar and AMAN-21 would be vital for achieving desirable development of blue economy, regional maritime security and regional connectivity.

Pakistan is a peace loving country that believes in regional security and stability. Pakistan Navy’s active participation in international coalitions, holding of multinational exercise AMAN-21 and other initiatives is a testimony of its commitment to promoting peace and stability through a collaborative architecture. Future of the blue economy is directly correlated with maritime security in which the Pakistan Navy is achieving 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.

Being a prominent regional expert of BRI & CPEC I uphold that AMAN-21 stands for maritime “multiculturalism”, maritime “diplomacy”, and “vivid” reflection of shared prosperity. It shows Pakistan’s “collective resolve” to fight maritime security challenges through “shared effort”. It projects a soft image of Pakistan. It stands for the regional peace, security, stability and development. It is anti-terrorism in maritime domain, collaboration to maintain safe and sustainable maritime realm and above all enhance interoperability between regional and extra regional navies. 45 countries participated in AMAN-21 which showed Pakistan’s “constructive” role in regional peace and stability.

Sea unites while land divides, Pakistan considers that maritime security is not just important for itself but for all other countries whose prosperity and progress are strongly bonded with the seas. In this regard, Pakistan should develop a holistic approach to develop new “ports” and “harbours” at Jiwani, Gaddani, Ormara and Pasni along with other points for economic and maritime security purposes along further development and “integration” of the Karachi Port, the Port Qasim and the Gwadar Port. More than 80 per cent of the world’s oil shipments pass through the IOR, making the forecasts of an “Asian century” an imminent reality. India is likely to direct its enhanced maritime capability towards destabilising Pakistan in its proxy war with China which may be coped with bilateral or trilateral military & naval cooperation with Turkey and China.

To conclude, from “Cold War” arena to hot pursuits of “hot waters”, from China’s containment to BRI & CPEC, “chocking maritime points” to “Chabahar Port”, Somali pirates to Syrian on-state actors, 9/11 to ISIS rise in Iraq, Africa, Libya and many other parts of the world all confirm strategic role of maritime security and diplomacy for which “Pakistan’s AMAN-21” was successfully conducted. There is an urgent need of rigorous “digitalization”, “artificial intelligence”, and “qualitative human capital” and strategic orientation of “modern navy” in the country in which strategic partnership with China and Turkey may play an important role. AMAN-21 stands for “modernization”, “innovation” and “integrative” policies to maintain peace, stability and peace in the IOR.  “Pakistan’s Connect Africa ” policy may also be geared up for securing greater maritime security and effective diplomacy in the days to come because socio-economic, geopolitical and geostrategic importance of its choking points may destabilize Western Indian Ocean Region in the days to come.