Throughout the history oceans have acted as highways connecting the world into a global common. One of the most notable attribute of oceans is its ability to transport goods to far off places in bulk at cheaper costs. This attribute of oceans has not only connected countries far and apart but is also the backbone of globalization. Today almost 90% of global trade is traversed through sea Because of the excessive dependence of global trade and commerce upon seas the world community is very sensitive to any potential conflict leading to disruption of Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs). The seas have been declared as the common heritage of mankind by United Nations Charter on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Seas have been the biggest enabler of globalization taking the global sea trade to its higher over volume alongside the opportunities offered by sea are also challenges of even greater magnitude. It has been established beyond doubt these challenges cannot be met by one country alone irrespective of its size and power. The concept of collaborative maritime security has thus become indispensable which is evident by the collective response of global community against the menace of piracy along the Somali coast Pakistan’s geo-strategic location in the western IOR close to the strategic Straits of Hormuz overlooking the all-important choke point of Bab-al-Mandeb makes it as one of most important maritime state having great impact on the regional security paradigm.. Unrest in Yemen, Iran-US imbroglio, Iran-Saudi tensions etc makes this region very volatile. In addition, non-traditional threats of piracy, drug trafficking, human smuggling and illegal immigration have been perennially present in this part of IOR.
Realizing the need for a collaborative maritime security mechanism Pakistan was the first country to have joined Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) as early as 2004. Since then it has pro-actively participated in Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150) a collaborative initiative for maritime security and counter-terrorism. It is also an active contributor to Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151), a counter-piracy initiative, in order to manifest its resolve to strengthen maritime security Pakistan Navy instituted Regional maritime Security Patrols (RSMP) and Task Force 88. RMSP is region specific whereas TF-88 is to meet the maritime security requirements of GWADAR and CPEC.
With the desire to promote peace and synergize maritime security efforts of stakeholders, Pakistan Navy launched the premier international maritime naval exercise AMAN meaning “Peace”. The motto of the exercise is therefore “Together for Peace”. Since 2007, PN has been holding the series of AMAN naval exercises biennially. AMAN exercises are a great leap forward in the field of maritime diplomacy and fostering regional maritime security with partner nations. The exercises bring together ships, aircraft, SOF teams and observers from the eastern and western hemispheres to foster a sense of comradeship and brotherhood for providing safe and secure environment out at sea. The exercise also provides a great opportunity to enhance interoperability and mutual learning. AMAN exercises are tailored for RTTPs (Response, Tactics and Techniques Procedures) particularly against non-traditional threats. AMAN culminates with practical exercises at sea that include; VBSS (Vessel Board Search & Seizure), communication, anti-submarine and anti-piracy exercises. The primary objectives of AMAN exercise are; Coalition building amongst partners, enhancing interoperability amongst regional and extra-regional navies, validation of anti-piracy procedures, projecting a positive image of Pakistan towards promoting peace and stability, consolidating Pakistan’s position in the Indian Ocean Region and providing a platform to project diverse cultures.
In tandem with exercises at sea and harbor an International Maritime Conference (IMC) is also held to provide a forum for intellectuals and Subject Matter Experts hailing from different nations to deliberate and exchange views on challenges being faced by the world maritime community. The outcome of various discussion sessions help the participating nations and beyond to develop common thinking on issues particularly those related to maritime security.
So far 6 series of AMAN exercises have been held since 2007. In AMAN 2007 a total of 28 countries, in AMAN 2009 around 24 countries, in AMAN 2011 upto 28 countries, in AMAN 2013 29 countries, in AMAN 2017 34 countries and in AMAN 2019 around 45 countries participated. The ever increasing number of participating countries over time shows the great success of AMAN series of exercises. It also displays the ever growing confidence of world community in Pakistan as a nation and Pakistan Navy as a torch bearer committed to regional peace and collective maritime security.
The 7″‘ of the series of International Maritime Exercise AMAN 2021 is planned in February 2021 at Karachi. It consists of Harbour Phase and Sea Phase. More than 78 regional and extra regional countries have been invited for AMAN 2021. The participation of so many nations despite COVID 19 restrictions will go a long way in bringing lasting peace particularly in IOR. It will also gel the participating countries to strive more harmoniously for a safe and secure maritime environment conducive to a better and more peaceful world.