The sea covers 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface. Oceans are of enormous importancein terms of resources, environment and conservation, tradeand industry, marine sciences and leisure activity. Maritime transport is the backbone of international trade and the global economy. Around 80 to 85 per cent of global trade by volume and over 70 per cent by value is carried by sea, only one percent by air and about 15 by land. Indian ocean (IO)is the third largest in the world, hub of major sea routes connecting the Middle East, Africa and East Asia with Europe and the Americas. These vital sea lanes, facilitate maritime trade in the IO region, carry more than half of the world’s sea-borne oil and host 23 of the world’s top 100 container ports. The IO region has 36 littorals which contain one third of the world’s population. It is a source of an estimated 40 per cent of the world’s offshore oil production. Apart from the above-mentioned naturalsignificance, the US, China, Japan,South Korea, Europe, Pakistan, &India, and many other nations import asubstantial amount of their requirements of energy and merchandiseimports and exports through this Ocean.Seven choke points in the region, include, Strait of Hormuz, Bab el Mandeb, Suez Canal, Malacca strait, Lombok strait, Sunda strait, and Mozambique channel.Strait of Hormuz is of strategic importance because it provides no alternate route to Persian Gulf, the major source of oil and gas. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that about 30% of the world’s crude oil and other liquids, as well as 30% of global LNG trade, is moved through this strait.The disruption of any of these choke points have overwhelming effects on the prices of oil and the food security of the world particularly strait of Hormuz.
Pakistan, specificallyits Gwadar port occupies strategic location overlooking the Strait of Hormuz and the North Arabian Sea. All types of oil and gas imports and 95 percent of trade of Pakistan is through the sea. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has further enhanced its importance not only for Pakistan but for China, and other land locked countries like Afghanistan and in future for Central Asian states. Therefore, Pakistan is one of the important stake holders in IO security frame work, whether it is piracy, maritime terrorist activities, gun running, human or narco trafficking. Pakistan, a maritime state has always been an avid supporter of regional peace and stability in the region. Her commitment to the principle of ‘peaceful coexistence’ anddesire for greater regional harmony and cooperation is also reflected through thearmed forces participation in UN peacekeeping missions, UN mandated combined maritime Task Forces 150 &151 as well as various bilateral and multilateral exercises.The PN,took initiativein 2007 to hold Multinational Exercise by the name of AMAN 2007,to demonstrate Pakistan’s commitment to peace, contribute towards regional maritimesecurity and enhance interoperability between regional and extra regional navies,predominantly against asymmetric threats.It was held in March 2007 in which 28 countries participated with ships aircraft or observers. Chinese Navy first time took part in this mega event. All the participating navies had the common objective of ensuring peace and freedom in maritime arena to provide safe and un interrupted flow of trade. After successfully achieving the anticipated objectives, the PN decided to make it a biennial affair. Up till now six exercises have been conducted and the seventh Aman 2021 is scheduled from 11 to 16 Feb. The word AMAN means ‘Peace’ and the slogan of the exercise is ‘Together forPeace’. A total 45 countries have committed to take part. A total elevenships from China, Japan, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, UK, and USA will participate along with 112 officials of participating countiesas observers.
Major harbor events include, opening ceremony on arrival of foreign warships. Wreath laying atYadar -e- Shuhadah, table top discussions on professional topics, friendly sport matches, maritime counter terrorism demonstration by the PN Special Services Group / Pak Marines. Various calls and inter-ship visits. International band and cultural displays.Major exercises at sea include practice response against maritime security threats in a multinational environment,underway replenishment of ships of different nationalities, firing of various weapons. Towards the end, International fleet review has been scheduled which will be witnessed by the senior officials and dignitaries from home and abroad. It includes operational activities of ships and aircrafts. Will conclude with man and cheers ship and fly past by the air units in the honor of the Chief Guest.
National Institute of Maritime Affairs(NIMA) is organizing an International Maritime Conference (IMC-21) in tandem with Aman 2021from 13 to 15 Feb in the Movenpick hotel, Karachi on the topic “Development of Blue Economy under a Secure and Sustainable Environment – A shared futurefor Western Indian Ocean Region”. It will focus on analyzing various facets of oceaneconomy, the challenges that are faced with respect to its peaceful development and theimperatives of maritime security while identifying areas of collaboration for achieving commongoals of maritime prosperity and security in the region.A total 26 eminent scholars ,16 from abroad and 10 from Pakistan,expert in maritime field of international celebrity will read their papers and interact with the delegatesof visiting navies and learned invitees from Pakistan. Recommendations will be disseminated to the concerned government departments.
This mega exercise organized by PN in which countries having diverse objectives otherwise like USA, China and Russia are participating is a unique occasion.It validates the profuse confidence in the professionalism of PN by the navies of the world. It endorses peaceful securityand safe environments in Pakistan. It also postulates that Pakistan enjoys a very respectable status in the comity of nations.
*Writer is a Cdre (retd) of PN, PhD in International Relations. Former director National Center for Maritime Policy Research(NCMPR), director Bahria Univ Islamabad campus and Senior Research Fellow at Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad.