Securing Seas for National Prosperity: Marsew 2022

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Ahmad Ibrahim

By virtue of its distinctive characteristics, navies world over play impoi1ant role in preserving sovereignty of a country’s maritime boundaries.

Pakistan Navy (PN) is no exception. Pakistan is located in proximity of Strait of Hormuz, the 21 mile wide global energy corridor through which roughly 18 million barrels of oil flows each day to various destinations in Asia Pacific, Europe and littorals in the Indian Ocean.

The country is often viewed as key player in emerging Sino-US power competition. An increasingly complex threat environment and proximity to international sea lines endows Pakistan with an important position.

Consequently, in turn, this confers on Pakistan Navy the paramount responsibility of policing to ensure order at sea and thus facilitate smooth and uninterrupted flow of legitimate commerce on the international maritime highways traversing close to the country’s coast.

Over the past two decades, Pakistan Navy has taken several initiatives of consequence and other measures aimed at safeguarding Pakistan’s sea frontiers. This also includes steps to ensure security of international sea lines of communication.

In parallel, Pakistan Navy instituted other important initiatives in order to expand outreach within Pakistan. The purpose of outreach initiatives is to educate and sensitize various segments of the society in Pakistan with maritime and ocean related matters.

Relocating Pakistan Navy War College in the country’s heartland at Lahore, large scale multinational exercise AMAN, setting up of JMICC (Joint Maritime Information and Coordination Centre), signing of Memorandum of Understandings with various HEC recognized Universities and yearly conduct of Maritime Security Workshop (MARSEW) are to name only some amongst a large number of initiatives instituted by Pakistan Navy in the said direction.

The Maritime Security Workshop (MARSEW) enables a wide segment of intelligentsia in Pakistan to assemble under one roof at Pakistan Navy War College, Lahore and gain first-hand experience on various aspects of maritime and maritime security matters.

The learning in the workshop comes both through interactive academic sessions in which key note speakers address the audience well as on site visits to coastal areas, various commands centres of PN, Gwadar port, Sir Creek etc.

MARSEW has been in place since 2017. It is now an integral part of Navy’s annual calendar of activities. Each year the workshop is organized under a different

theme which allows focused discussion on specific aspects of maritime matters including maritime security besides geopolitical developments. This year (2022), the fifth edition of MARSEW is being organized from 7 to 15 December under the overarching theme, “Secure Seas – Prosperous Pakistan.” The theme reflects a corresponding relation between maritime security and national growth.

It further highlights the importance of developing commensurate naval capability to protect and safeguard expanding maritime economic interests of the country. There is no gainsaying that all of this can only be realized once impoi1ant segments in the country’s legislative and decision making bodies acquaint themselves with oceans and maritime matters.

To develop synergy and effectively channelize efforts to secure national maritime interests, MARSEW provides a collaborative platform for interaction between various segments.

MARSEW engenders maritime consciousness through discussion and on site familiarization with the maritime security apparatus of Pakistan.

This mega national level workshop is attended by parliamentarians, bureaucrats, business entrepreneurs, academic personalities, media officials, besides officers from armed forces.

The MARSEW participants are explained various maritime issues and developments taking place in the Indian Ocean. The manner in which these developments impinge on the national security of the country is also examined.

Split into two phases and spanning over nine days, the workshop involves on- campus and off-campus activities. On-campus phase is scholarly in nature wherein talks by experts and seminars are followed by interactive session on various national maritime issues.

The second phase which includes visits to the naval installations, command facilities, coastal areas, provide exposure and reinforce academic gains made during the first phase. This interaction amongst various segments of government and society besides paves way for developing a strong bond also facilitates building broad consensus on maritime future of Pakistan.

With roughly 90 percent of its trade by volume conducted via sea, Pakistan is overwhelmingly dependent on sea commerce.

Projects like China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) have further enhanced the importance of maritime sector for Pakistan.

Similarly, the transition of national security policy from geopolitics to geo-economics calls for increased investment and sustainable exploitation of sea resources to act as catalyst in national economic growth.

For Pakistan, abundance of natural resources, human capital, and the industrial productivity cannot be rightfully utilized if its sea connectivity with rest of world is vulnerable to sea borne threats. In essence, for Pakistan, maritime security is a pivot around which the helm of national progress largely

revolves.

Besides highlighting threats at sea and opportunities for progress, MARSEW-5 (2022) will also explore the transforming landscape of geopolitics in the Indian Ocean. In emerging global order, Pakistan faces a unique dilemma of maintaining balanced relations with two competing powers — a difficult undertaking to say the least. The intensifying power struggle in Indo-Pacific continues to undermine strategic stability thereby increasing vulnerability of littorals in the region of Indian Ocean, especially Pakistan.

In effective propagation of maritime knowledge and notable collaboration between various public and private sector representatives, MARSEW is a reassuring effort on part of Pakistan Navy. This certainly augurs well for Pakistan’s future economic prosperity.