A day-long national maritime conference on Monday called for a broad-based National Maritime Policy, modernization of navy, and expansion of diplomatic engagement with the littoral states of the Afro-Asian Ocean Region (more commonly known as Indian Ocean) for peace and security and capitalizing on the opportunities created by China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
A set of 25 wide-ranging policy recommendations was issued at the conclusion of the conference on ‘Maritime Security in the Indian Ocean: Challenges and Prospects for Pakistan’, which had been jointly organized by Center for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS), Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), and National Center for Maritime Policy Research (NCMPR). The conference, which was participated by policy makers, legislators, maritime experts, and academics, further supported the idea of identifying Indian Ocean as ‘Afro-Asian Ocean’ to give a sense of ownership to the littoral states since the Ocean is bound by two continents.
The conference was held to analyse the challenges in realm of maritime security emanating from militarization and nuclearization of Indian Ocean and power projection by states maintaining presence in the area, emerging alliances in the region and threats to CPEC, in additional to non-traditional challenges like terrorism, piracy, food security and environmental concerns.
National Security Adviser Lt Gen (Retd) Nasser Janjua, while underscoring the importance of maritime security, in his keynote said: “Inter-state tensions in the region and significant investments in blue water navies by countries like India have brought oceans into focus as sensitive security space.”
He said the vision of ‘Asia’s century’ was under stress because “security architecture and strategic stability of the region has come under stress”. In this regard, he pointed towards Indo-US logistics exchange agreement, through which he said, “India and US have carved out space to pre-position themselves on this ocean. India, he said, was being propped up as a counter-weight to China through geo-political, geo-economic and geo-military moves.
Federal Minister for Defense Production Rana Tanveer Hussain, who was the chief guest on this occasion, said: “There is no surprise that our competitors are opposed to CPEC, and are already seeking to sabotage it. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that we be fully-prepared to deal with any and all challenges that may arise as these opportunities unfold, not the least in the maritime arena.”
The conference recommendations underscored the importance of overcoming national ‘sea-blindness’, because of which maritime issues have remained neglected in the national priorities, and developing a culture of ‘sea-positivity’.
Unveiling the recommendations of the conference, President CPGS Sehar Kamran said: “Maritime Security is a pivotal aspect of Pakistan’s national security, and must be acknowledged as such.
A comprehensive and long-term maritime security policy with a futuristic approach based on projected requirements for the coming decades in both civilian and military maritime sectors is the need of time.”
Senator Sehar Kamran said fulfillment of the vision of ‘Asian Century’ needs a focus on 3Cs – Connectivity, Cooperation, and Communication. She specially thanked PPP co-Chair and former President Asif Ali Zardari for helping in initiation of CPEC and said it underscores how we can contribute to achievement of national interest in a non-partisan manner.
The recommendations placed special emphasis on development and modernization of Pakistan Navy for being the guardians of the maritime boundaries. “Pakistan should increase and modernize its naval fleet, and pursue technological advancements in sea-based deterrents to ensure an assured second strike capability, especially in the context of the growing threats in the AAOR by our belligerent neighbour.”