Pakistan Navy not to lag behind

By S. M. Hali

Pakistan Navy (PN) had a humble beginning with a handful of dilapidated sloops, frigates, minesweepers, naval trawlers and harbor launches at the independence of Pakistan. From the very outset, the fledgling PN was set to task for ferrying Armed Forces officers, who had opted to join Pakistan, their families and other Muslims, migrating to their new homeland.  The mass exodus of humanity from India to Pakistan, adopting the land route was set upon by marauding hordes of Hindu and Sikh rioters, who butchered the refugee caravans. The sea route was the only safe means of travel and PN conducted “Operation Sea Cross” with conscientiousness and diligence.

For Pakistan, whose two wings were separated by over fifteen hundred kilometers of Indian territory, the maritime link was vital. The Indian naval strategist K.M. Panikkar, in his book “India and the Indian Ocean” (1951 Ed.) had predicted that Pakistan would have two navies, one for the defence of West Pakistan and the other for East Pakistan. Unfortunately, the land lubbers, who were at the helm of affairs, did not heed such advice and ignored PN at their peril. Panikkar was proved correct when as a prelude to the 1971 Pak-India War; India revoked over-flight rights for Pakistan. Had Pakistan maintained two navies, its eastern wing would not have been severed.

The importance of PN can be gauged from the fact that Pakistan is a littoral state of the Indian Ocean and is dependent on the sea route for over 90% of trade, especially POL products. The two co-located ports of Karachi and Bin-Qasim are thus vital economic life lines of Pakistan. The concept of dry ports located all across Pakistan with hub ports being Karachi and Bin-Qasim has further added to the usefulness of ports of Pakistan for maritime infrastructure.

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The maritime threat that Pakistan faces is twofold; one from its traditional enemy in the east, India, which in a bid to transform its navy into blue water force, has planned the induction of aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, frigates and battleships well beyond its legitimate needs. It must be remembered that marine life offers vast and varied reservoirs of resources essential for human life. As per the United Nations Convention on Law of Sea (UNCLOS-1982), every coastal or island state enjoys the right to exploit the economic and other riches contained in its adjoining seas up to a limit of 200 NM from its coast. Pakistan is blessed with an area of 240,000 Sq Km called the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Pakistan. Under the same UNCLOS, Pakistan is set to expand its EEZ further, after which an additional 55,000 Sq Km of area would be available. The other source of threat is from piracy and use of maritime route by terrorists and miscreants, which merit extreme vigilance.PN contributes to world peace by persistent deployment of its assets in US led coalition Task Force 151 which is tasked with preventing human trafficking and the smuggling of narcotics and weapons.

Being fully cognizant of the threat, PN is fully committed to fulfilling its tasks and has over the years been configured and outfitted accordingly. Today, it has a balanced fleet capable of safeguarding the maritime interests of Pakistan, operating on four dimensions with forces trained to fight on, above and below the sea as well as on the shores. Acquisition of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and MRTPs (Multi Role Technical platforms) are examples, whereby potent and cost effective platforms have been added to PN inventory. Likewise PN has recently inducted jet aircraft for Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) purposes–which is being outfitted with modern sensors and will provide a cost effective option as compared to buying a new Maritime Patrol aircraft.

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As for the main combatants, Pakistan Navy’s flagship project is the induction of Chinese F-22P Frigates. Under this project, four ships are to be inducted into the PN fleet, three built in China and fourth in Pakistan. This project continues to progress as planned and three F-22P Frigates (Zulfiquar, Shamsheer and Saif) have been commissioned into the fleet while the construction of a fourth ship is underway at Karachi Shipyard and Engineering works for which major refurbishment work of the yard has been undertaken. Besides which PN has recently signed a contract with China for the construction of two Fast Attack Crafts which are to be fitted with advanced anti-ship missiles. Moreover, a number of other projects including indigenous construction of fleet support and auxiliary ships and other smaller utility crafts are also progressing satisfactorily.

In the sub-surface forces, PN has embarked upon the modernization and life extension of all existing submarines. Apart from modernization, PN is contemplating expansion of its submarine fleet and in this regard negotiations are underway with reputed submarine builders around the world. The aviation arm of PN is also under major up gradation and induction process. A new squadron of Chinese-origin, organic helicopters for F-22P Frigates has been raised in PN, which has a total of six Z9EC helicopters. In addition a fleet of seven PSC long range maritime aircraft are being inducted from USA.

Pak Marines on the other hand perform equally important tasks of protection of Pakistan’s coastline in general and disputed creek areas in particular. These forces are expanding and over the years have been equipped with modern weaponry and systems to add to their prowess. This includes; military assault boats, hovercraft, Air Defense weapons and guns. With its development plans well in place, PN certainly remains the apex of vigilance.

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Group Captain S. M. Hali has served in the Flying Branch of Pakistan Air Force. During his service, he has held various command, staff and training appointments including Air and Naval Attaché at Embassy of Pakistan Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from 1991 to 1995. He is a graduate of PAF as well as Joint Services Staff College. After retirement from PAF, he completed his M Phil in Mass Communication and did broadcast journalism courses in USA. He has been the chief editor of a news wire service INP and established a private channel, a number of FM stations and APP's video news service. Besides Opinion Maker, he contributes regular articles to other national English and Urdu newspapers.  He also hosts a weekly English TV talk show "Defence and Diplomacy" on PTV News.