AMAN-21 – A Diplomatic Victory for Pakistan?
“The centre of gravity of world affairs has left the Atlantic and moved to the Pacific and Indian Oceans.” Henry Kissinger’s Keynote Address, “Power Shifts & Security”, at 8th IISS Global Strategic Review – Geneva, 10th Sep, 2010.
Hosting the Aman-21 naval exercise for collaborative maritime security with 45 navies participating in the event is significant for Pakistan geo-strategically, especially when China, India and US see the Indian Ocean with their own geostrategic frameworks: Maritime Silk Road, Security and Growth for all the Region (SAGAR), and Indo-Pacific Strategy, respectively.
For this purpose, Modi’s keynote address at the Shangri-La dialogue of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in Singapore on June 1st, 2018, can be considered when while articulating India’s vision for Indo-Pacific Region, he stated,
“In the Indian Ocean region, our relationships are becoming stronger we promote collective security through forums like Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS). We are advancing a comprehensive agenda of regional co-operation through Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). And, we also work with partners beyond the Indian Ocean Region to ensure that the global transit routes remain peaceful and free for all”.
India is focusing two imperative political & military ideas:
1) whoever commands Indian Ocean will also command entire Asia,
2) extra-regional influences should be kept out as Indian Ocean lies around its backyard, is ambitiously trying to be region’s “net security provider”.
As concerns Pakistan, CPEC is the land constituent of BRI strategy connecting oceanic routes at Gwadar Port which is situated at a strategic location where the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and Silk Road Economic Belt connect.
Having access to Indian Ocean with about 990 km coastal strip, bifurcated in two parts, Sindh Coast (270 km) and Makran Coast (720 km), geostrategic vitality of Pakistan is evident. Ocean shipping comprises almost 90% of global trade and 60% of oil volume worldwide, whereas the Indian Ocean contributes world’s 50% of container shipments and 70% of the shipping of oil products from the Middle East to the Pacific.
Nearly 40% of world’s trade via the Strait of Malacca and almost 40% of crude oil trade passages via the Hormuz Strait also signify the strategic importance of the Indian Ocean routes for international trade. Therefore, maritime strategic security along with trans-border security challenges including piracy, armed robberies at sea, terrorism, trafficking in narcotics, arms and people, illegal fishing, and the dangers posed by natural disasters and climate-change are crucial to address by adopting a collaborative maritime security framework. This will ensure peace, stability and sustainable economic growth and development in the Indian Ocean region.
Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, on the efficacy of sea-power, stated that control of the sea by maritime trade activities and naval supremacy means predominant influence in the world.
CPEC and BRI’s Maritime Silk Road establish Pakistan’s stature as a key regional player in the South Asian geo-politics. However, the maritime security and safety challenges cannot be confronted by any state alone.
Therefore, Pakistan Navy is in collaboration with the Chinese Navy and the navies of other states as well. #AmanExercise2021 is an initiative in this regard. What makes it significant is the fact that the three largest navies, China, Russia and US are together under this platform for collaborative maritime security. This is the first time in a decade that Russia is participating in a military exercise along with NATO members.
With the motto “Together for Peace”, #AMAN2021 offers participating countries a chance to “work together keeping differences aside to defeat common adversaries” and hybrid warfare, such as terrorism, piracy, drugs and arms trafficking, human smuggling, climate change, says the Pakistan Navy Chief Admiral. PNCA Mujahid Amjad Khan Niazi adds,
“Aman Exercise is about bridging gaps and making it possible to operate together in pursuance of shared objectives.”
Pakistan Navy’s initiative of Regional Maritime Security Patrols (RMSP) is also highlighted. While talking to Gulf News, Commodore (R) Syed Mohammed Obaidullah said,
“It is a huge achievement for Pakistan Navy that the number of participating countries grew immensely in a few years as the message of peace and collaboration appealed to both eastern and western navies, #NATO and non-NATO members”.
He further said that in comparison to India’s Malabar Exercise, which started in 1992 and attracted only three navies, “Pakistan’s #AmanExercise2021 garnered global recognition as it’s not against any country and benefits all states”.
As exercise is conducted in two phases always, harbour and sea, the harbour phase includes the International Maritime Conference (IMC-21) organized by the National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA) under the patronage of Pakistan Navy from 13th-15th February, 2021. Conference’s Theme is Development of Blue Economy Under a Secure and Sustainable Environment: A Shared Future for Western Indian Ocean Region.
Hence, through #AmanExercise2021, Pakistan, as Dr Khurram Iqbal, HOD IR, NDU, says, “will once again play the role of a peacemaker and provide a platform for China and Russia on one side and the US and allies on the other side to come together”.
This signifies Pakistan’s strategic role in the regional and global geopolitics in addition to international diplomacy which is indeed a diplomatic win for Pakistan in the prevalent regional circumstances.