S. M. Hali
The theme for Pakistan Navy (PN)’s multinational exercise Aman-13 is “Together for Peace”. The multinational exercise Aman (peace) is a major initiative, which is being held biennially since 2007 to enhance interoperability, plan and execute maritime operations to jointly tackle the asymmetric threat to the region from terrorism, piracy and drugs/weapons/human trafficking . Previous Aman exercises were conducted with meticulous planning and brought out valuable lessons, which have been incorporated in the latest of the series, Aman-13, which was executed in North Arabian Sea from 4-8 March 2013.
The concept of the exercise was designed to provide common forum for information sharing, mutual understanding and identifying areas of common interests; develop and practice response tactics, techniques and procedures against asymmetric and traditional threats during sea phase of the exercise and intermingling of multinationals with depiction of their respective cultures.
Alongside Aman-13, PN in conjunction with National Centre of Maritime Policy Research (NCMPR) conducted international conferences on maritime issues. These intellectual encounters at NCMPR have become a hallmark of Exercise Aman, since they provide the opportunity to have enriched discourses and a platform to promote maritime awareness in Pakistan besides enhancing the country’s image in international fora. Besides international naval officers, the presence of global academia enlightened the participants with thought provoking threat analyses and proposed means to meet the challenges head on.
The planners of Aman-13 not only provided impetus to joint planning and execution of operations but emphasized the focus objectives as display of united resolve against terrorism and crimes in maritime domain; contributing towards regional peace and stability; enhancing interoperability between regional and extra regional navies thereby acting as bridge between regions.
Multifarious activities at sea involving boarding drills, cross deck landing serial, helicopter landings, Anti-Surface Warfare serials, including Naval gun firings on target at sea, Night Encounter Exercise and Maritime Interdiction Operation, Coordinated Missile attacks Exercise from Missile Boats and fighter aircraft, Anti Submarine Warfare exercise involving ships, Helos and Aircraft, an international Fleet Review including replenishment between ships while at sea, Anti-Piracy exercise, Naval gun firings on target at sea and Fly-Past by aircraft from various participating nations will immensely enrich the experience of the participating units. An extraordinary feature is the utilization of Special Operations Forces (SOF) through HVBSS Ops, SVBSS Ops, Static line and Freefall Water Jumps, Special Purpose Insertion and Extraction (SPIE) Ops, EOD Exercise, Maritime Counter Terrorist Exercise, ATT/Close Quarter Combat (CQC) Exercise, Frogman Exercise and VBSS Operations during MIO.
Simultaneously Indian Navy (IN) has been conducting one of its biggest exercises, “Tropex” (Theatre-level Readiness Operational Exercises) in the Arabian Sea over the last 30 days, involving over 50 warships, including the new stealth frigates and nuclear-powered submarine INS Chakra, as well as 75 fighter jets, patrol aircraft and helicopters. In the backdrop, were two completely networked fleets, widely dispersed across seas in the Indian Ocean, operating in a dense electronic environment to match their professional and technical proficiency. New platforms, weapons sensors, communication systems and tactics were being tested and tried to optimize the net combat power of the fleets. Over forty surface combatants of various classes, submarines and a large number of aircraft including UAVs participated in the IN exercise. As would be the case in any operation of the twenty first century, the exercise had a jointmanship element as IAF aircraft such as AWACS, Sukhois, Mirages and Jaguars also participated.
Closer to home, it is a matter of concern that 94% of Pakistan’s imports and exports are transported via the maritime route, yet adequate attention is not paid to the development of PN or the Maritime Security Agency (MSA), which can ensure the safe passage of Pakistan’s commercial interests both during peacetime as well as during war. Keeping the Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) open is the primary task of any navy but PN requires the teeth to do so in a befitting manner. Simultaneously, Pakistan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is spread over an area of 201, 520 square kilometers. The EEZ is a sea-zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind. It stretches from the seaward edge of the state’s territorial sea out to 200 nautical miles from its coast. Without a potent navy, Pakistan would lack the capability of exploiting the marine resources as well as guarding them from other nations poaching in our waters or making away with the rich marine life in our EEZ. Pakistan’s EEZ is virtually its fifth province and needs to be guarded and its resources can enrich our impoverished nation.
The successful execution of Aman-13 is a significant demonstration of Pakistan’s commitment towards peace and stability through harmony and collaborative maritime security between navies of the occident and the orient. Nevertheless, maritime security exercises being successfully organized and executed in Pakistan should add to the confidence of international visitors to Pakistan.
In fact it appears that both the national media and the media managers of Pakistan Navy missed the opportunity to capitalize on the novelty of the occasion. Pakistan in general and Karachi in particular are teetering under the impact of frequent terror attacks. The security situation is so tense that foreign investors have fled to safer climes. Despite assurances, international sports teams refuse to participate in fixtures in Pakistan. Our cricket board is forced to organize matches with international teams on neutral grounds outside Pakistan. In this milieu 33 navies, their personnel and maritime platforms not only visited Karachi but despite the bloody carnage which rocked Karachi and claimed 50 precious lives in a bomb attack at a housing complex, the sailors and officers of the international navies, held food and fun galas. Undeterred by the regular visit of the grim reaper—death to Karachi—donning their traditional attire, the international visitors served their national cuisines and presented variety programmes depicting their culture and traditions; strengthening the belief in the slogan for Aman-13: “Together for Peace”.