December 11, 2017
A wise man once noted that each historical epoch has its own distinctive view of political conditions and opportunities.
The late veteran French general and statesman, Charles de Gaulle, once made the poignant observation that “a country cannot change its geography but it can change its geopolitics”.
It almost appears that he could have been directly addressing Pakistan. For since the latter came into being back in 1947 — the country has been struggling to find its rightful place in the region and beyond. Indeed, the interplay of historical, geographical and political forces has been driving our strategic decision-making process for the last 70 years. And as a wise man once said: while geography is the backdrop of history itself — man’s actions are limited by the physical parameters imposed by the former.
Yet in Pakistan’s case, three seemingly distinct yet interlinked ‘events’ have played an absolutely critical role in shaping the country’s foreign policy choices: namely, British colonialism, the Cold War and US dominance in our (external) affairs.
And if we go back to the beginning, to our very birth, the first thing that we saw upon opening our eyes was the devastation of the immediate post-war aftermath. But not only that, we found ourselves thrust into a new bipolar world. And it was one where the battle would be fought along geopolitical, ideological and military lines. With the Americans on one side and the Soviets firmly on the other side of the so-called Iron Curtain. This is to say nothing of a deepening sense of the existential threat emanating from our larger neighbour India. Thus was this new nation fixated on preserving its territorial integrity and sovereignty from anyone who would do it harm.
This led to the Pakistani leadership taking the drastic step of aligning with Washington, thereby denying the reality of its geopolitical neighbourhood. Things might well have turned out differently had Jinnah lived. For he immediately grasped that this new country was “the pivot of the world”. Just as he understood that the US needed Pakistan more than vice versa and the Russians would never be so very far away. Tragically, he died too soon and none of his successors managed to match him when it came to intellectual insight. Thus they — all of them — have been responsible for landing us in this current mess. It is unfathomable that a country with such a sizeable population and rich in natural resources; a nuclear-armed state, no less, has been dismissed as a rapidly failing state.
Pakistan has been slow to learn the lesson of choosing allies with whom it shares physical and political proximity. The fallout of which has been the expiry of our strategic relevance and geopolitical outreach
Thus Pakistan’s American embrace left it unable to make peace with neighbouring India, Afghanistan and Iran. Unresolved border issues soon escalated and wars were fought. With the passing years, it became fashionable for our leadership to claim that they made use of the country’s unique geo-strategic location to crush the Soviet Union, which benefitted everyone. Yet the reality is somewhat different; in that all we had actually achieved was paying greater geopolitical dividend to the US, particularly, and the West, generally. And it was Pakistan that spectacularly lost in that round of power politics. Fast-forward to today and our relations are worse than during the turbulence of the 1980s. And instead of preventing the USSR from nearing warm waters — we effectively landed ourselves in hot water. It has been the same for the last 20 years. Meaning that Pakistan has paid dearly for pursuing this policy of strategic depth; just as it has for being a front line ally in the displacement of Soviet Russia from the region. And it has been the same story since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Yet we have done nothing much to redress any of this. Our neighbourhood is still a largely hostile one in terms of ties with India and Afghanistan. Though there is some good news regarding bilateral relations with Iran. Nevertheless there are many things that are simply beyond our control. Such as: as the continued US presence next door across our western border; the rapid rise of New Delhi; a resurgent Russia; as well as the Chinese economic revolution. The latter is the one that we must not take our eyes off. Given that the One Belt One Road (OBOR) project encompasses some 68 countries with a combined population of 4.4 billion people and covers around 40 percent of global GDP. All of which brings to mind the wisdom of Halford J Mackinder, widely acknowledged as one of the founding fathers of both geo-strategy and geopolitics. And it was he who noted that each historical epoch has its own distinctive view of political conditions and opportunities.
For us, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) represents the new economic world order. And we, too, have a constructive role to play in our immediate backyard. But to do this we must make the most of our geostrategic position at the crossroads of the Silk Road between Beijing and the West. Indeed, we are able to provide stability to China’s troubled regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet, while also acting as a bridge to the Arab and greater Muslim world.
Thus this is an opportunity that Pakistan can ill afford to squander. If, that is, it is serious about casting itself in the role of regional elder statesman. This nuclear armed-country is home to a population of 200 million, a 0.7 million-strong military establishment and a $1-trillion economy in terms of purchasing power parity. In short, we have everything going for us.
About the Author:
Tahir Nazir is a research associate at the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS). His views do not necessarily represent those of the institute. He tweets @tahirdss
Same version of the article appeared in Daily Times.
By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
September 19, 2017
‘Non-proliferation will only work if all states are willing to cooperate, and that will only happen if all feel they are being treated fairly.’ John Bruton, Former EU Ambassador to the US.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is once again featuring in headlines following the detonation of its most powerful nuclear device yet, exacerbating the security concerns of its neighbours and raising the stakes for the international community and the non-proliferation regime (NPR) at large. The country’s actions have elicited a strong, almost unanimous response globally. But the fact remains that such highly irresponsible and continued provocative behaviour by Pyongyang has once again brought to light another, perhaps greater flaw: the limitation and weakness of the international non-proliferation regime, which despite claiming strong, cohesive networks and control, is failing to yield substantive results. This increasingly seems to confirm that the power of international regulatory bodies has eroded to a critical point. It also raises a question-mark over these bodies’ ability to prevent other countries from following suit, which further posits, can the international non-proliferation regime still be trusted as the legitimate guardian of nuclear material security.
This is far from the first time the legitimacy of the regime has come into the limelight; its leniency and continued practice of inconsistent policies, particularly in the context of India, has long been a large chink in its armour. In fact, ‘exceptionalism’ has become the defining characteristic of behaviour of the international community towards Indian nuclear ambitions, especially in recent years. It is a path that has been and is being created specifically, in line with the continued policy shifts of the United States in the region, and short-term economic interests of western powers, seeking to capitalize on the burgeoning Indian nuclear industrial complex. And it is a path being forged at the cost of regional stability and peace. This has also not only seriously undermined the international non-proliferation regime and the NPT framework, but also called into question the IAEA’s role as an independent, international body capable of promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology, while continuing to limit the misuse of this technology for military purposes.
In order to comprehend the bigger picture, sometimes it is necessary to take a step back. The first nuclear test by India in 1974 was considered a failure of the watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and necessitated the creation of the Nuclear Supplier’s Group. Thirty years on, with India remaining outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), nothing appeared to have changed on the surface when the then-American President George Bush offered the country a ‘conditional’ NSG-waiver in 2008, allowing it to pursue nuclear trade and cooperation under the ‘123 Agreement’, and the Hyde Act of 2006, which was signed into law specifically to materialize a nuclear deal with India. The conditions included a requirement to separate civil-military nuclear programs completely, as well as bring all their reactors under IAEA safeguards.
However, empirical evidence indicates that India has not in fact been compliant with the ‘conditions’ of the NSG waiver – on the contrary, its nuclear force structure is proactively being enhanced. It is a known fact that at least eight of India’s nuclear reactors, as well as their Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR) program remains outside any safeguards; essentially implying that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has legitimized vertical proliferation in a state outside the NPT. Furthermore, India’s scientific complexes (nuclear, missile, and space) remain poorly separated. Its nuclear programme is partially under international safeguards, but this remains limited and allows India to exercise de facto nuclear weapons state privileges in the context of the production of special fissile material.
Two recent reports from the Belfer Centre and the Alpha Project at the Centre for Science and Security Studies (CSSS), King’s College – respectively titled ‘India’s Nuclear Exceptionalism’ and ‘India’s Strategic Nuclear and Missile Program’ – also claim that at this point, India has already accumulated nuclear material for over 2600 nuclear weapons, including all of its unsafeguarded reactor-grade plutonium, which is weapon-usable, and raised concerns over this stockpiling. The Alpha report argues that ‘the process of Indian science developments taking the lead over policy direction is why India’s technological latency should raise concerns’. Turning a blind eye to these developments and the legitimate concerns of Pakistan vis-à-vis strategic stability in the region will only aggravate this dilemma.
The reports highlight that India’s strategic weapons complex has the potential to push its nuclear capabilities to a full spectrum of weapon systems, should there be political will. It is working on five to six ballistic-missile nuclear submarines; a force larger than either the British or French naval strategic forces; in order to fully operationalize and arm these vessels, it has also been working on the K-4 and K-15 nuclear-capable submarine-launched missiles. Given its growing missile program, and an under-developed naval submarine fleet, the project clearly indicates that India is seeking more plutonium and enriched uranium, ‘by hook or by crook’. Its efforts to join the NSG, therefore, are based primarily on a desire to secure nuclear trade for its ambitious three-stage fuel cycle. Furthermore, the supply of uranium from other countries will free up indigenous production for the expansion of their nuclear arsenal. Enhanced capabilities without restraints also create the possibility of erosion of political control of the nuclear arsenal, as well as of India’s commitment to ‘No First Use’ and to a maximum retaliation-only posture. Furthermore, there remains a risk of onward-proliferation, as military and civil scientists and engineers continue to meet discreetly in forums and conferences, which should raise concerns about cross-field blurring.
It is similarly clear that intrinsically, the geostrategic and commercial interests of the US were the motive behind the waiver. In other words, the interests of greater world were sacrificed by altering international laws, norms and values of peace for securing the national interests of the US. This phenomenon is further demonstrated via the India-US strategic partnership, and the Logistic Support Agreement (LSA), under which the sale of advanced military technologies to India thrives. These recent arms deals, which include submarine and drone sales to New Delhi, are likely to increase both Indian hostility in the region, as well the insecurity of neighbouring countries, completely upsetting the regional strategic balance. They have already dis-incentivized India from pursuing bilateral or multilateral talks for the resolution of core issues, or engaging in efforts to establish a strategic restraint regime and durable security architecture.
And yet exceptionalist behaviour towards the country continues as it is brought into the folds of the MTCR, while distinct pressure is created, once again by the US, for India’s unilateral membership of the NSG! The adverse impact of these developments on South Asia, and the threat that is posed to regional strategic stability can no longer be ignored. If the international non-proliferation regime is to retain both its legitimacy and control, it is vital that the culture of exceptionalism is discarded. It may well be time to also revisit the NSG waiver of 2008, in light of India’s vertical proliferation, continued failure to meet the conditions of the waiver, as well as the increasing threats posed by their force modernization, before considering an application to the NSG that WILL further disintegrate regional stability.
Same version of the article appeared in The Nation
By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
September 09, 2017
“Foreign policy cannot be reactional, incidental or occasional; clearly defined goals have to be followed with consistency to achieve tangible results.”
Over the past few weeks, Pakistan has once again been at the receiving end of controversial statements – from President Trump’s new South Asia and Afghanistan policy to most recently the BRICS declaration.
Each new event has been met with increasing furor and an aggressive, retaliatory response from every segment of the Pakistani society. Each event has also reinforced the perception of our increasing international isolation and the shrinking space for the Pakistani perspective in the international arena.
Much has been said, and much more is being written and debated in this context within policy and expert circles. More worryingly however, it seems that with each new problem, our responses are becoming increasingly repetitive and slightly tone-deaf. In the context of the newly announced American policy, for example, most responses have been adrenaline-fuelled and aggressively defensive, arguing that the Pakistani perspective is ‘totally ignored’ – which then must be countered by sending envoys and delegations to ‘convey’ our perception of the situation. At which point, naturally, all will return to its natural order as the offending parties will come to ‘understand’ how things really stand. Or, and this is the other popular response, a defiant thumping of the chest, standing in the shadow of our ‘big brother’, China. There is no doubt about the sincerity of China and Pakistan’s time-tested, all-weather friendship, but neither nation can unduly burden the other for the protection and promulgation of its own national interests – strong relationships require ‘balance’.
This is not to say that Trump’s speech was not as obtuse and ignorant as it was inconsistent. Pakistan is well within its rights to put forward a strong, unified response to the dangerous and inaccurate representation of the country.
But a complex problem requires a nuanced response, and therein lies the art of diplomacy. Much of what was stated by Trump has already been in practice by the US government for a while now; the mantra to ‘do more’, and a ‘conditional’ relationship, highlighted by the CSF repayments fiasco. Our government, which up until very recently was without even a Foreign Minister, appears to have been operating in a constant state of ‘denial’. What is perhaps more disturbing then is that our typical ‘fire-fighting’ response is falling on increasingly deaf ears, highlighting just how little space the country now has diplomatically to be unable to prevent such deliberately incendiary remarks, at the very least, if not actual influence on US policy in the region on legitimate concerns – such as the call for an enhanced Indian role in Afghanistan – despite our very important role in it.
The BRICS declaration was a similar example of this receding space, but an overhasty response has only added fuel to the fire. The inclusion of terrorist organisations operating in Pakistan is a blow, but given that those organisations are already proscribed within the country – indicating our own concerns on their operations and efforts to counter them – and the fact that BRICS is neither a platform for counter-terrorism nor maintaining international peace and stability, but primarily a mechanism to increase cooperation amongst its member states (which Pakistan is not), the ‘rejection’ of their declaration by Pakistan’s defense minister seems well out of place. Contrarily, the response of the Foreign Office was significantly calmer, but lost in the clamour, once again rendering the impact of Pakistan’s overall response confusing, inconsistent and unproductive.
It is sometimes said that a sign of ‘insanity’ is repeating an action over and over again, and expecting different results. Consequently, despite numerous ‘dossiers’ presented by Pakistan at various forums, with few follow-up efforts as part of a larger strategy, international perceptions have not been swayed in any significant manner. With the United States, chaos has become the defining feature of a relationship that has one character in our government’s state to state relations, and another entirely in the public eye. This duality, amongst other factors, has been responsible for the difference in public and state reactions, and widening the trust deficit between the two countries.
During a discussion at the White House in 2016, a Senior White House Aide rightly pointed out to me that Pakistan has maintained a relationship with the US administration. However, policy in the US is formulated by the Congress and legislative bodies, in which we have little to no ingress, which is exacerbating our problems today. There is no doubt that Pakistan is an indispensable nation for the long-term peace and stability of the region. But the fact that the US is choosing to take a more provocative position towards the country (if only to test the waters) while it seeks to re-entrench itself in Afghanistan is telling in itself; it is a shortcoming, if not failure, of our diplomacy.
Pakistan’s larger foreign responses and policy goals cannot be outlined or defined in a reactionary manner, on the basis of a single speech by a foreign President or some statement by a body that has little to no tangible impact on us directly. A country’s foreign policy must always reflect the national aspirations of its people; its formulation must incorporate clearly defined goals and directions, for a significant period of time, that won’t be changed willy-nilly. Only on the basis of these can national strategies be developed to achieve them. This cannot be done with a sword hanging over our heads, and without some – any – vision for the future. It is vastly important, now more than ever, not to give into reactionary instincts only to ride a wave of domestic populism.
As with any problem, the repetition and failures must first be identified. The Foreign Office must take charge, as well as responsibility for long-term engagement strategies, and monitor their effectiveness. Diplomatic missions abroad must be revitalized to actually perform their primary role, make consistent efforts towards clearly identified goals, and held accountable for failures. A target and task-oriented approach should be taken, with mechanisms for transparency and accountability for all sectors involved in the management of the relations.
Engagements with foreign parliaments and policy making bodies must be regular and continuous. Ideally, all international obligations, treaties and agreements should be brought before the Parliament for ratification, as is widely practiced globally. But until then, at the very least, law-makers should be thoroughly briefed about Pakistan’s current agreements and responsibilities, so that they are fully updated on ground realities and the country’s position on sensitive issues before engaging with their foreign counterparts or accidentally issuing tone-deaf statements in the media. Similarly, strengthening Parliamentary relations with foreign legislators, at large, and the US Congress and Senate in particular, is a crucial need of time, but one that must extend beyond the current crisis. Parliamentary exchanges can help in enhancing understanding and bridging trust gaps better than any other long-term strategy. Pakistan must also reconnect with its diaspora, engaging with them via permanent mechanisms to strengthen our lobbying abilities.
In the face of recent crises, we must take a proactive approach if Pakistan is to revive its international standing and prestige. A strong but mature response will resonate well, in Washington as well as the world, better than an angry outburst reflecting in short-sighted short-term policies which will cause more harm than benefit in the long run. Every country must put its own interests first, and the onus lies upon Pakistan to retake the charge of its destiny back into its own hands, and finally achieve the potential we have always known we hold, not just for today but for the nation’s tomorrow.
Same version of the article appeared in The Nation
By Raja Muhammad Waqas
May 29 2017
Few will disagree that a state will seek out and capitalize on any opportunity it can avail itself of in furtherance of its strategic objectives. However, the problem remains with some states which prefer to act in isolation, expanding their ever-growing military arsenal without much consideration for the stability-instability paradox and foregoing broader implications. Such decisions are faced with serious consequences that again become the fueling constituent of a never ending vicious circle. In a globalized world, this discussion is more pertinent than ever. The degree of interconnectedness we are experiencing today makes events at distant locations increasingly influential in determining circumstances at home and vice versa. Naval strategy is greatly affected by regional developments in a globalized environ. Therefore, it invites attentiveness to restructure naval power and ensure its inclusion as a vital component in national security policy. Such a revision is imperative essentially for those smaller states whose national security constructs are centered upon the belligerent developments taking place in the neighborhood under the garb of peace and security.
Challenges arrive alongside opportunities. The Indian Ocean presented long awaited opportunities to be availed of until the testing and subsequent induction of the INS-Arihant nuclear submarine in India’s naval strategic force. This development enabled Indians to claim an assured second strike capability but at the cost of adding to others’ insecurities, and relegating the long-rotten concept of security dilemma to the backburner. Arihant is the first Indian ballistic missile submarine which can carry nuclear capable intermediate range ballistic missiles K-4, as well as the short range ballistic missiles K-15. The challenges faced by Pakistan in the wake of these developments were responded to in a much anticipated way. Following the Indian tests, Pakistan successfully test fired submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) BABAR-III in January 2017 to restore deterrence stability by reinstating mutual vulnerabilities. While the missile was launched from a mobile underwater platform, and questions arose as to the compatibility of BABAR-III with Pakistani diesel submarines, the action communicated a clear message: remaining incognizant of belligerent strategic attitudes in the region is not an option for Islamabad.
However, Pakistan still needs to plug holes which, if it does not, may provide India the chance to exploit bilateral conventional asymmetry in seemingly more vulnerable naval sphere. Unlike the land forces, which are equipped with NASR to deter any proactive misadventure, the naval domain may not find it handy to avert any possible sea-based conventional attack from the eastern neighbor. One may purport that the triggering of a naval conflict by India against Pakistan to gain conventional profits seems unlikely, given that any such attempt would be met with a diversified response from Pakistan and create a high cumulative cost of hazardous advancements of war. Nevertheless, providing freedom to the rival state – no matter how limited – to initiate war could prove detrimental to regional stability. Response to these threats must come from a meticulous national security policy. The urgency is further expedited by the emergence of new opportunities in the Indian Ocean as part of China’s “One Belt, One Road” project; a development which requires Pakistan to strategize a smart and cost effective naval power to respond, without resorting to equivocal options.
The presence of off-shore U.S. fleet in the Indian Ocean and the assistance extended by it to India in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) also poses serious threats to regional stability by abolishing mutual vulnerability. Exercise Malabar unearths this stark reality. Therefore, it is also the involvement of multiple actors in the region and their interconnectedness in economic and strategic spheres that influences regional stability. Therefore, restraint should be observed by major stakeholders, especially those whose actions have been fueling this vicious cycle of action-reaction continuity directly or indirectly. In this context the United States shares a huge burden of responsibility to bring peace and stability to the region by courageously embracing the tradeoff between its dream of Chinese encirclement and the long-term strategic stability of the region. Greg Theilmann, Director Arms Control Association and a Senior Fellow at Princeton University, proposed in a Threat Assessment Brief in 2016 that the U.S. Asia Security Policy must entail assuring mutual vulnerabilities by discouraging the deployment of nuclear weapons on naval ships. This implies that stability in volatile South Asia is ensured through maintenance of mutual vulnerability rather than advancement in vertical proliferation. Moreover, the idea that the naval advancements in pursuit of acquiring assured second strike capability shall bring stability to the region is hitherto far from being practically valid. For nuclear capable submarines to ensure their survivability in case of any counter-force targeting, these must be permanently deployed without waiting for the emergency to erupt. This is not the case in Indo-Pak context. Similarly there are many concerns related to the management of nuclear warheads off-shore, as well as the reliability of communications network; issues which may lead to untoward scenarios including unauthorized or accidental launch during crisis.
In a nutshell, the opportunities and challenges provided by the Indian Ocean to the region and beyond- owing to its unique geostrategic characteristics- need to be managed aptly. Colin S. Gray says in Modern Strategy that the difficulty in strategy lies in its performance rather than its permanent nature. So it is the performance of strategy that has to play a constructive role to replete itself with opportunities and minimize the shared challenges through cooperation and not confrontation, for the greater regional benefits and beyond.
By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
May 01 2017
“Control of the sea by maritime commerce and naval supremacy means predominant influence in the world … (and) is the chief among the merely material elements in the power and prosperity of nations.”
–Alfred Thayer Mahan
The seas have always been gateways to the prosperity and survival of States, facilitating the vast majority of global trade and communications; consequently, maritime security has been of vital importance for the national interests of states. The Afro-Asian Ocean is particularly important, forming the pathway for approximately 70 percent of all global trade and more than 80% of the world’s seaborne oil trade. The term Afro-Asian Ocean may be a surprising new term for many, but it is by no means a novel idea – it has been suggested previously on numerous occasions, and seems the most pertinent to me. It is only through an odd twist of circumstance, however, and in complete contradiction of both geographic and geopolitical realities, that the ‘Indian’ Ocean became the only one in the world to be named after any one country – India. The name is undoubtedly a misnomer, particularly for waters that touch such a vast array of nations and two continents. The Ocean extends from Durban to Perth, touching the entire eastern coastline as well as parts of northern and southern Africa, the western shores of Iran, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia and numerous island states, and this is a problem, as the misnomer is preventing its 32 bordering nations from taking charge of their destinies in the region, while allowing one State to treat the entire area as its personal backyard. In this context, the name `Afro-Asian Ocean` would be far more pertinent, and this is the nomenclature that I will be employing in this article.
In order to establish the dimensions and paradigm for maritime security in the Afro-Asian Ocean, it is important to first establish the context for its necessity. As indicated previously, the Ocean holds crucial geostrategic significance, as it houses limitless resources, in addition to numerous trade routes, ports and choke points, including three of the world’s most important choke points – the Straits of Hormuz, Bab-al-Mandeb and Malacca. More than 100,000 ships transit through this ocean annually. It is the world’s third largest ocean covering an area of approximately 68.5 million square kilometers, houses about a third of the global population, connects one fourth of all landmass, in addition to housing three-fourths of the global reserves of oil, iron and tin. The world’s most important Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs) pass through the Afro-Asian Ocean.
Recently, we have been witnessing a reprioritisation of maritime borders and trade routes in this region, and a resurgence of competition for influence and control in international waters. The Afro-Asian Ocean has reemerged as a focal point in international geostrategic discussions. As the potential of this region remains largely untapped, ensuring the protection of resources which lie beneath those waters is increasingly becoming as significant as defending a country’s land-based borders.
A large proportion of all conflicts since the Second World War have occurred in or around the Afro-Asian Ocean Region. History seems to be repeating itself again as even today, the AAOR remains one of the most militarised regions in the entire world, housing large contingents of international troops, including the French, British, and the US – which alone has over 360,000 troops. While such massive deployments are mostly either of coalition forces or of navies in collaborative and/or coordinated deployments, competition for control and security of important choke points nonetheless creates space for power rivalry, especially on the basis of clashing geo-strategic and geo-economic interests.
Furthermore, the nuclearisation of the Afro-Asian Ocean is raising the stakes for strategic stability, both of the littoral states, and the extra-regional stakeholders. India’s plans for a blue water navy, its introduction of ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) and nuclear-powered general-purpose attack submarines (SSNs) in an arena that does not yet have very strong dispute resolutions mechanisms, not only heightens the possibility for nuclear escalation, but also creates new space for hegemonic coercion by a self-appointed ‘net safety provider’, and it is the disproportionate support and encouragement of one major power – the US – towards these developments that is threating to disrupt regional stability by promoting hegemonic designs in the AAOR.
Historically in Pakistan, unfortunately, there has been a distinct tendency to neglect this arena, with traditional strategic imperatives focused almost entirely landwards, despite the fact that the maritime sector is the bedrock of our national economy. However, with Pakistan’s recently expanded continental shelf, and developments like the operationalisation of CPEC and Gwadar, the seas have regained the attention of strategic and policy-making circles. Under CPEC, Pakistan is seeking to become the connector between the land and sea routes of One Belt One Road (OBOR), and in conjunction with the launch of Gwadar Port, these developments further consolidate Pakistan’s geo-strategic importance. Within the maritime arena, this translates to a multitude of regional and trans-regional economic prospects.
However, evolving regional strategic relationships are threatening the fruition of Pakistan’s strategic imperatives. To date, despite various constraints, Pakistan Navy has proven highly effective in successfully thwarting any challenges faced by the country in this domain, upholding `time and again’ its reputation and credibility worldwide. But in order for the economic evolution on our horizon to occur, the transition must be managed with the utmost care.
Tackling any challenge requires constant vigilance, and one as sensitive as maritime security in the Afro-Asian Ocean demands even greater attention. Having recognized this challenge, it is similarly important to acknowledge that managing maritime security is an arduous endeavor. It requires cooperation between all stakeholders and states.
This century has rightly been dubbed as the ‘Asian Century’, and attaining this potential future demands the 3 Cs – Connectivity, Cooperation, and Communication. Pakistan is highly cognisant of the potential these upcoming opportunities are bringing to the table, and the challenges that come with them; it requires initiating cooperative mechanisms and encouraging partners to collaborate for mutual benefits. It also requires a strengthening of the country’s maritime sector, especially the capacity and capabilities of the Pakistan Navy, in line with the role it is expected to play in the near future.
For this purpose, a broad and inclusive ‘National Maritime Policy’ (NMP) must first be identified, acknowledging the various facets of maritime security, including trade, economy, environment and security, to facilitate the creation of targeted strategies for implementation. Secondly, in order to launch effective, coordinated strategies to implement Pakistan’s Maritime Policy goals, a ‘National Maritime Authority’ (NMA) must be created. At the moment, a coordinating and monitoring mechanism is lacking between the various ministries and departments of the government that tackle maritime issues; the NMA can fill this gap. Strengthening current legislation at the earliest and filling in gaps where necessary is vitally important, particularly in light of the launch of CPEC and Gwadar. Pakistan must also take the lead in the pursuit of the renaming of the Ocean through robust diplomatic efforts.
The need of the hour is the vision to foresee upcoming challenges, and prepare for them, in line with pre-identified national interests, if Pakistan is to actually achieve its dormant potential.
Same version of the article appeared in The Nation
The Indian Ocean covers an area of 73,556,000 square kilometres, and is the third largest ocean in the world. It is rimmed by three continents; Africa, Asia and Australia, and it forms the connection between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, where the global economic and political powerhouses lie, rendering it a highly significant geostrategic location. Indian Ocean also has its significance because of the fact that 65 % of the world’s oil, 35 % natural gas as well as sources of numerous other manufactured goods and raw materials are located in the littoral states of the Indian Ocean. It is also significant for global security and economy because of important trade routes and choke points.
Within the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea has a central position whereby it straddles the routes for all important energy supplies and access to the important choke points of Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormuz to the West and approach to the Bay of Bengal and Malacca Strait to the east. Besides the energy supplies, global trade of other commodities and raw materials also passes through the Arabian Sea. Moreover, it provides the shortest access to the sea to the landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia. Its importance has increased manifold with the start of CPEC project to facilitate Chinese exports and energy imports through Pakistani ports, especially that of Gwadar.
The peace and security in the Indian Ocean is threatened by competition for dominance, presence and access to its waters, menace of piracy, regional rivalries and conflicts and the threat of terrorism. Pakistan is directly or indirectly affected by all these aspects. Pakistan took a proactive approach to the emerging security situation in the post 9/11 scenario and it has enhanced in its scope since then to cover the aspect of piracy by Somali based pirates.
Anti-terrorism operations are complicated by and are interlinked with the smuggling and drug and human trafficking. Pakistan, through Pakistan Navy, has taken a leading role in coalition Task Forces against the terrorism and piracy and has commanded both the Task Forces several times. Besides participation in these operations, Pakistan Navy took steps to enhance collaborative maritime security by introducing AMAN series of exercises which were enthusiastically welcomed by the powers present in the region. PN has been holding AMAN exercises regularly to demonstrate its resolve for improving maritime security collaboration in the region.
Pakistan has an undeniably important geo-strategic location, sitting at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, a route for world’s 72 percent oil supplies and other global trade. As mentioned earlier, it also provides the shortest sea access to the land locked Afghanistan and CARs, as well as Chinese western regions. Pakistan itself is is highly dependent on maritime trade. Over 95% of Pakistan’s trade is through the sea and 290,000 sq km of its EEZ and Continental Shelf are rich in living and non-living resources which need to be protected and managed for sustainable exploitation.
Pakistan’s stakes in the maritime arena are therefore high which are impacted by multifaceted threats and challenges. Most important are the emerging Indo-US strategic partnership, increased Chinese interest and presence in the region, Indo-Iran and Indo-Gulf cooperation and the continued threat of terrorism and piracy, which although has been contained to some extent. Whereas US remains the dominant nuclear power in the region, its European allies also maintain significant presence. This decades old presence is now being further complicated because of Indian ambitions and nuclearisation to which Pakistan’s response has so far been measured yet firm.
This complex milieu and intertwined interests and strategic concerns require a careful and continued look to chart the future course of action and responses.
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