M Taimur Khan
WHOEVER rules the waves, rules the world, wrote Mahan, who believed that national power and prosperity depended on control of the seas. His thesis was true then and it stands true today. Sea routes have been used by mankind for trade and commerce for over 3000 years. Sea-ward wars and battles have also been fought to protect those naval routes to enhance economic hegemony and shape geo-politics. The significance of seas can be gauged from the fact that two-thirds of the world population lives on coastal regions. 90 percent of international trade is seaborne. Transportation via seas is approximately 10 times cheaper than rail, 45 times cheaper than road and 163 times cheaper than air.
The importance of the CPEC project along with the Gwadar Port at its apex have been addressed to and discussed by experts and political gurus all round the globe and since all this economic activity will ultimately take place via seas and oceans, the significance of the Indian ocean and its maritime security just cannot be ignored. Apart from providing a most economical route for trade connectivity between China, Pakistan and rest of the world, CPEC (and Gwadar Port) will provide better connectivity to the energy rich Central Asian Republics (CARs) and act as transit and trans-shipment port for Central Asia. The Gwadar Port can also be used as a hub-port for the Gulf States as well.
Pakistan military has taken several notable initiatives to ensure onshore and afloat security of the CPEC and Gwadar Port. The security of Gwadar port, Chinese personnel working there and all the included infrastructure have been entrusted into the capable hands of Pakistan Navy. According to open sources, the Pakistan Navy is adopting a multi-pronged approach to tackle all the challenges. Those steps include increasing the overall security apparatus of Gwadar Port, conducting security patrols and conducting coastal exercises. Pakistan Navy is also enhancing its Maritime Domain Awareness and engaging in Collaborative Maritime Security which as the name suggests is in association with regional and extra regional navies.
The Navy has also created a separate force consisting of Pakistan Marines for the protection of Gwadar Port and Chinese personnel. The name of the force is Force Protection Battalion (FPBn). The size of this force is subject to increase as related activities on the port will increase. Apart from the conventional threats, Pakistan Navy is also preparing its defences regarding any asymmetric threats to Pakistani ports and coast.
Constant surveillance and monitoring of maritime area of interest is being done by Pakistan Navy at all times and for this purpose, the Navy has deployed state-of-the-art radar networks, electro-optic sensors and pickets. This not only helps to fill any gaps that might be left in conventional means of protection but also generate timely and well-coordinated response if any threats are mitigated by non-state actors. Pakistan Navy, to strengthen maritime and coastal security setup has also established Coastal Watch Stations and Joint Maritime Information Coordination Centre (JMICC). This not only helps the navy to gather and compile valuable information but also enables it to synergize coordinated operations by different security agencies in maritime domain.
No country in the world can face the challenges posed in the realm of maritime security due to the given nature of modern maritime challenges and for that reason Pakistan Navy regularly collaborates with navies of different countries and engages in different activities to improve interoperability and handle maritime crimes (such as joining 2004 US-led multinational Task Force-150). This not only keeps Pakistan Navy up to speed regarding modern challenges in the maritime domain but also keeps the navy a finely tuned and oiled war machine that is ready to face any regional and extra-regional challenge to national security. Pakistan Navy is fully cognisant that navies are also responsible for fostering a country’s foreign policy objectives and to this end the Pakistan Navy is constantly striving to foster stronger relations with the regional and extra-regional navies to create a safer security environment where economic activity can take place without any threat or risk.
The whole world has realised the immense significance of the CPEC project and Gwadar Port. Regional and extra regional states desperately want to get in on this project to benefit from its exploits. Countries and powers who are trying to sabotage CPEC and Gwadar port through direct and indirect means should be mindful of the fact that Pakistan and its Armed Forces are fully aware of their designs and are also capable and prepared to destroy anyone who dares to cast an evil eye on the security of these projects and the overall national security of Pakistan.
—The writer is Research Assistant, Institute of Strategic Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.