Islamabad, FEB 5: Hosting of the multinational maritime exercise ‘Aman-2021’ reflects Pakistan’s intentions for building collaborative maritime security mechanisms to counter all sorts of non-traditional security threats in the Indian Ocean region, including, but not limited to, growing sea piracy, environmental, cyber and satellite communication sabotage, and maritime policing issues such as illegal fishing, smuggling, drugs and human trafficking, etc.
This was stressed by maritime experts and security analysts at a webinar titled ‘Security Cooperation in the Western Indian Ocean Region and Significance of AMAN 2021’, which was hosted by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS).
The session was chaired by Vice Admiral (r) Iftikhar Ahmed Rao, former deputy chief of naval staff, and co-chaired by Khalid Rahman, chairman, IPS. Dr Maliha Zeba Khan, IPS’ Research Fellow, moderated the seminar which included as speakers and discussants, Dr Shabana Fayyaz, in-charge, defence & strategic studies department, Quaid-i-Azam University, Dr Azhar Ahmad, naval expert and associate professor, Bahria University, Dr. Khurram Iqbal, head of IR department, National Defence University, Vice Admiral (r) Asaf Humayun, Rear Admiral (r) Saleem Akhtar, Mirza Hamid Hassan and Aneela Shahzad while a number of researchers and analysts from National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA), Maritime Study Forum (MSF) and other relevant institutions and organizations from across Pakistan participated actively in the online event.
V/Admiral (retd) Rao said, Pakistan’s peace initiative in the IOR in the shape of Aman exercises has created a conducive environment for regional and extra-regional players. He warned that India, with its hegemonic designs in the Indian ocean, is trying to pose itself as a maritime regional power and is interested in holding sway over the choke points in the IOR. However, this is not possible owing to the magnitude of China’s military and economic prowess, he added.
Commenting on participation of Russian navy ships in the Aman exercise for the first time, he said, this holds immense political significance and augurs well for bilateral relations between Pakistan and Russia.
Dr Khurram apprised the forum that increasing competition between China and the US, which earlier was limited to the Pacific, has now shifted to the Indian Ocean, changing power dynamics of the region. He further said that India, the most important pawn of American grand chess in Asia, wants to dominate the Indo-Pacific theater. These hegemonic designs are a matter of concern for Pakistan, which is playing its part in fostering peace and stability in the region. Instead of taking sides, Pakistan is acting as a bridge to defuse tensions in the exceedingly polarized Indian Ocean.
Dr Azhar was of the view that although the menace of piracy in the Indian Ocean region has faded away, it is pertinent to enhance the role and capacity of maritime security agencies and coast guards along with improving ship-tracking mechanisms. Highlighting the role of Pakistan Navy in this regard, he said Pakistan is currently commanding Combined Task Force 151 – a multinational naval task force created to respond to piracy attacks – many times. In his opinion, the answer to piracy lies in geo-political stability in the disturbed countries in the region like Somalia.
Dr Shabana stated that both competition and cooperation exist in the Indian Ocean region where India-China rivalry in strategic domains is an open secret. With the ambition of becoming a blue water navy, India has garnered the support of the US, which is interested in countering growing Chinese influence. According to her, Pakistan is joining hands with Turkey, China and Russia for collaborative security to respond to skewed Indian ambitions.
Concluding the session, Khalid Rahman underlined AMAN as a success story of Pakistan which, despite facing several security threats, carries the message of peaceful coexistence in the region. He called AMAN 2021 as a failure of Pakistan’s enemies who wanted to isolate the country globally, and lauded the drill as a maritime diplomacy initiative.
A recently published book by IPS Press, Elements of Blue Economy, which has been authored by Vice Admiral (r) Ifikhar Ahmed Rao was also screened on the occasion.=DNA