By Maira Tariq
Throughout history, humans had a close connection with the sea. Many nations in this world are highly dependent on sea resources especially island nations. The Indian ocean is very important for the littoral states as well as for the extra-regional and regional players. In this globalized and interdependent world, the oceans got more importance than land. The competition between the major powers and littoral states in the Indian Ocean is rapidly increasing at the center point of international politics. The growing importance of its ports and shipping lanes and the rise of regional and global players transform the Indian Ocean into a major crossroads for multiple issues. Increasing the quest for energy, trade, and investments in the Indian Ocean connects three continents Australia, Asia (South and Southeast Asia), and Africa (East Africa) with the entire world. As Mahan said: “Whoever controls the Indian Ocean will dominate Asia, the destiny of the world would be decided on its waters”.
Maritime security has become a critical issue in the contemporary world. Maritime security is challenged with numbers of issues involving maritime terrorism, piracy, smuggling of humans, drugs& narcotics & arms weapons, etc. The most highlighted issue in the Indian Ocean is piracy and terrorism. Piracy is a complex problem to vanquish because if we prevent any free flow of trade, it will largely impact on the international and regional trade. The only solution to this problem is to increase the capabilities of the naval forces to maintain check and balance in the affected areas to overwhelm this crime. Likewise, maritime terrorism is another difficult problem in the Indian ocean which is focusing nowadays. The most significant chokepoint in the Indian Ocean is the Strait of Malacca that connects the Indian Ocean with the South China Sea and the Pacific and the most substantial trade route for the Far East, the Gulf States, and Europe.
Nevertheless, these days maritime pollution and environmental disaster is another focusing issue on the Indian Ocean. This is a serious matter for the regional and extra-regional sea’s trader that how to protect marine life from increasing production and exploration activities in the ocean. The developed countries using advanced technological machinery to extract oil from the Indian Ocean region that causes environmental and pollution problems. While the industrially developed countries are throwing their industrial wastes to oceans which is highly dangerous for the marine’s life. The regional and extra-regional powers must cooperate to resolve these issues in maritime otherwise they would face the high-risk consequences in the future.
Role of Pakistan Navy
Maritime security challenges pose a serious threat to Pakistan’s interests and security as well. Approximately 90% of global trade is handled via the shipping industry through the Indian Ocean. Apart from this, naval forces are playing a very significant role in protecting and safeguarding the sea routes from terrorism, piracy, and robbery, drug trafficking of humans, narcotics, and arms weapons. Apparently, Pakistan naval forces have been able to be gauged as a regional force for preserving maritime security and joined the US-led Multi-National Combined Task Force-150 in 2004. According to this task, the Pakistan navy is conducting maritime security operations to overcome the terrorists and criminal activities in the Indian Ocean. In 2009, Pakistan navy joined Task Force CTF-151 and in 2018 Pakistan naval forces took an initiative of Regional Maritime Security Patrols (RMSP) to counter piracy, arms, and humans smuggling and maritime terrorism in the Indian Ocean.
Pakistan is modernizing its submarine technology for the last five years. Pakistan had started the two major submarine deals with China and Turkey to safeguard and upgrade its underwater warfare capability. In 2015, Pakistan purchased eight Hangor (Type 042 Yuan-class) from China and construct four at Karachi Shipyard. In 2016, Pakistan provided the Agosta 90B Submarine Modernization Project worth $350 million to Turkey-based submarine manufacturer Defence Technologies Engineering and Trade (STM). This was the first time that Pakistan deals with a Turkish company for the submarine project. These submarine projects are the major game-changer for Pakistan to upgrade its submarine technology. Pakistan naval forces are focusing on the construction of new midget submarines for the marine safety and control underwater illegal activities. This project targeted in 2017-2018 by the Ministry of Defense Production (MoDP). In addition, Pakistan’s naval force is playing an active role in the maritime to counter security threats from the Indian side. Indians are very concerned about Pakistan’s advanced submarines technology and deployed the Indian naval forces for the protection of maritime affairs.
Pakistan being a peace-loving country is trying to overcome illicit activities in the Indian Ocean. Pakistan naval forces took an initiative on the institution of Multinational Exercise AMAN in 2007. The concept of this exercise is to be sharing information, identifying areas of common interests, and shared understanding of maritime security operations to counter illicit activities in the Indian Ocean. Pakistan navies also launched joint naval drills with China to overcome non-traditional threats at sea. Pakistan’s naval force’s active role in multinational initiatives and operations shows clear evidence of its commitments regarding maritime security challenges and opportunities to promote peace and stability through a collaborative arrangement.
The writer is M. Phil. Student of International Relations at National University of Modern Languages (NUML) Islamabad