Salahuddin Haider

Thursday, November 05, 2015 – AS PAKISTAN Navy’s major maritime exercise SEASPARK 2015 commenced in North Arabian Sea earlier this week, some remarkable facts came to light during press briefing Tuesday at Karachi which was chaired by Rear Admiral Kaleem Shaukat, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (Operations). Earlier, opening brief of the exercise was also conducted at Karachi which was attended by Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah, Chief of the Naval Staff and other senior officers from Pakistan Navy, PAF and Pak Army Navy, somehow, ever since Pakistan’s creation was called a “silent service” which is nothing but a misnomer. Countries with powerful navies have ruled the world. Pakistan Navy’ role as custodian of country’s sea lanes, in war and peace ensures national sovereignty not only from enemy, casting an evil eye, but also for merchant shipping, which is of vital importance.

Instances, supporting this contention were far too many. The decisive attack on the Dwarka on 7th September 7, 1965, changed the course of the enemy attack on us. The Indian navy was blunted, and dared not launch a move against us/

Likewise, the attack on the Bismark in second world war by small destroyers, sneaking through its long firing range, to damage the huge enemy ship, is a golden chapter about Navy’s role in history. The Normandy landing on June 6th 1944, finally liberated France from Nazi Germany. .

The Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (Operations) highlighted that the overarching objective of this exercise is to corroborate PN operational plans, assess war preparedness of Pakistan Navy and enhance interoperability with PAF and Pak Army. All operational units of Pakistan Navy including ships, submarines, aircraft, UAVs, Special Forces and Pak Marines alongwith elements of PMSA, PAF and Pak Army are participating in the exercise. During the exercise, full spectrum of threats would be exercised ranging from conventional to asymmetric, cyber and information warfare domains. Besides enhancement of operational preparedness, the exercise will also focus on seaward defence of the coast and response against emerging non-traditional threats emanating from sea.

Being located at the confluence of worlds’ major sea routes, strategic location of Pakistan can be exploited to our advantage through the development of maritime sector and a strong Navy for its effective defence. PN operational and developmental plans are therefore focused to maintain a potent and well balanced naval force to deter aggression at sea. PN, being an essential appendage to state’s foreign policy, also strives to foster stronger Navy to Navy relations through regular exercises and ships visits with regional as well as extra regional navies.

Additionally, besides traditional naval operations, Pakistan Navy actively contributes in numerous ways in nation building tasks. Most important contribution has been in the field of education, health and job opportunities for betterment of coastal community. During the international and national disasters/ contingencies, Pakistan Navy carries out extensive search, rescue and relief operations and plays an important role in the rehabilitation.

Pakistan Navy is combat ready and fully committed to protect national maritime interests at all costs during peace and war. The exercise SEASPARK 2015 would therefore provide impetus to Pakistan’s resolve of maintaining peace, security and stability in the region.

Highlighting that Pakistan Navy’s total share in country’s defence budget was 10 percent, would do no service to a fighting force. Theirs was not a complaint for it was backed by equal stress on resource constraints and economic conditions of Pakistan. India has an aircraft carrier, which despite being a floating platform for attacks, is simultaneously a liability, for it would require huge paraphernalia of destroyers, missile boats etc to shelter it from opposition attack. However, Indian Navy has 5 nuclear submarines, to which Pakistan government, must focus attention now to equip our own Navy with latest technological strengths. Pakistan too is a nuclear power, which in itself is a tremendous asset. The country has also developed small and medium size nuclear weapons but does need carriers for their effective and strategic roles.

Pakistan Naval dockyard has acquired the capability to build submarines, and is now building bigger ships also. The Chinese aid to supply submarines, and also transfer technology to Pakistan Navy, coupled with Russia’s decision to give us 3 M35 helicopters, has helped Pakistan overcome problems of the past, and look forward to a new era of powerful defence.

Admiral Shaukat explained that Navy can effectively ensure safety of our sea lanes, which has been declared a high risk free area from sea piracy, and also ensure complete safety of our merchant shipping, which accounts for 90 percent of world trade today, and almost the entire oil supply through sea.

The government effort to build its armed forces is indeed laudable, but some more attention is needed to be focused on modern equipment for Navy and Air Force, the two other wings of the defence services which together with Army, forms a powerful combination when working in unison during times of emergencies.

The Sea Spark exercise too, will have PAF support and is staging in Arabian Sea after 3 years, would be a tremendous asset for our Navy and Air Force to review their fighting capabilities, and locate improvements wherever needed. However the government, spending lavishly on infra-structure, ought to divert greater funds to the country’s defence arms, Navy and Air Force included together with Army. Navy, apart from its own offensive capabilities, also serves as a troop carrier to rival shores in emergencies. That factor should never be lost sight of.

Navy is not a “silent service” in my opinion. It is the bulwark of safety for our shores, and has to have an offensive capability to keep the initiative in its own hands, rather than merely saving our sea lanes, if for, God’s sake, war breaks out.

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