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an initiative towards stability and peace in maritime affairs

The aftermath of World War II witnessed many drastic changes in the global politico-military and socio-economic arenas which gave incessant urge to fill the vacuum of power by the war glorious nations, especially the US and the erstwhile Soviet Union. Once close allies of War-wed-lock became competitors on the world stage and engaged in the cold war. The cold war further beheld the emergence of various military, economic, and political alliances as quintessential for devastating nations to guard their national and economic interests. NATO, Warsaw Pact, SEATO, CENTO, United Nations, European Economic Community (presently European Union), and Non-Aligned movement are prominent few.

The chessboard of the world arena entailed strategically smart and intelligent moves for the survival of the fittest. Since the conquerors of WW-II had large navies; they had already started to guard their military and economic interests through near-permanent presence at maritime economic hubs and choke points. However, the common thread between all these scenarios was the establishment of the notion that peace and stability are the sines qua non in all its forms. The very concept was further strengthened after 9/11.

Navies have inherent reach and flexibility which makes them a very significant element of national power in peacetime as well as in wartime for furthering national interests through constabulary and benign roles. In the present day, the geostrategic situation in the maritime domain has evolved. The vastness of oceans and threats posed in the maritime domain do not respect boundaries as their effects are felt globally. The threats to maritime security increasingly emanate from contemporary asymmetric challenges like terrorism, piracy, narcotics, arms and human smuggling have a great impact on the maritime environment. Consequently, there was a strong realization that no one nation can single-handedly cope with the quantum of this prevailing threat, making cooperative maritime strategy a matter of compulsion.

Consequently, maritime nations resorted to form maritime alliances, the conduct naval drills to enhance interoperability among global navies to collectively handle maritime challenges. The Rim of Pacific (RIMPAC), MILAN, International Multilateral Maritime Search & Rescue Exercise (IMMSAREX), KAKADU, and Multinational Naval Exercise AMAN are some glaring examples.

Pakistan has always been an ardent supporter of regional peace and collaborative security. As a torchbearer of this unflinching resolve, PN has been hosting Multinational Naval Exercise AMAN biennially since 2007 which has a global outlook. The conduct of this Exercise is one of the quantum leaps towards the fulfillment of this shared vision along with global partners. It is part of a number of regional and international initiatives to achieve this end. AMAN series of exercises are effectively built on the concept of “Together for Peace”.

“AMAN” is an Arabic origin word which exactly means “Peace”; this word is also used in the same connotation in Urdu and Persian languages. The premiere AMAN Exercise was held in March 2007 wherein a total of 28 countries participated with naval assets and 29 observers. 14 ships from China, UK, Italy, France, Malaysia, and Bangladesh joined the exercise. In addition, Special Operations Forces, Explosive Ordnance teams from Turkey, the USA, and Bangladesh also participated.

The second Exercise of AMAN series held in March 2009 witnessed 24 countries’ participation with naval assets and 35 observers. 14 ships from China, USA, UK, France, Malaysia, Australia, and Bangladesh, and 02 x aircraft (P-3C) from Japan participated in the exercise. In addition, SOF/ EOD teams from China, the USA, Turkey, Nigeria, and Bangladesh also participated in the exercise.

The third Exercise of the AMAN series was conducted in March 2011. During this exercise, 28 countries participated in naval assets and 43 observers. A total of 11 ships from Australia, China, France, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and the USA participated. 03 aircraft from Australia & Japan and 03 SOF/ EOD/Marines teams from China, Turkey, and the USA also participated during the Exercise AMAN-11.

AMAN-13 was the 4th exercise of the AMAN series and was conducted on Mar 13. During this exercise, a total of 29 countries participated. 12 foreign ships, two Japanese P3Cs, 9 SOF/EOD teams, 5 senior officers from participating navies, and 36 observers participated in the exercise. Multinational Naval Exercise AMAN-17 was held in February 2017. Navies from around 34 countries participated along with ships, aircraft, Special Operations Forces, Explosive Ordnance Teams, Marines, and 67 observers in this exercise. AMAN-19 was held in 2019 wherein 46 countries of the world participated.

Pakistan is hosting Multinational Naval Exercise AMAN-21, the 7th of the series, in February 2021 at Karachi. The Exercise will be conducted in two phases; the harbor phase and the sea phase. The harbor phase will comprise International Maritime Conference, seminars, table talks, cross ships visits, calls on, International Band Display, and Maritime Counter Terrorism Demonstration. Whereas, the sea phase includes the practical execution of operational plans and activities finalized during the harbor phase. The Exercise has been planned with focused objectives, which include: Enhancing interoperability with regional and extra-regional navies thereby acting as a bridge between the regions. Display of united resolve against terrorism and crimes in the maritime domain.

Maritime security challenges in the Indian Ocean have acquired international dimensions. Cooperation between international navies, therefore, is imperative to counter these emerging threats. Pakistan is a major stakeholder in the maritime security of the Indian Ocean Region is fully committed to ensuring freedom of navigation and lawful maritime order. Hosting and conduct of series of Multinational Naval Exercise AMAN under the auspices of the Pakistan Navy is a big stride towards this direction. Upcoming AMAN-21 Exercise is expected larger participation of countries across the globe, with their warships, aircraft, helicopters, Special Operation Forces, Explosive Ordnance Teams, Marines and Observers which is a conspicuous manifestation of poise and confidence on Pakistan in joining hands for the common resolve of peace, stability and lawful order at sea. The exercise will also serve as a reflection of the strong ties between Pakistan and global navies and a display of converging strategic interests which will go a long way in promoting maritime security and stability in the region.

Written by Afnan Jaleel

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