Responsivity Continuum: Emerging Cornerstone of Pakistan Navy’s Capability Development and Operation Direction: OpEd

Responsivity, in generic terms, means a degree to which something is responsive, i.e., it can respond to various stimuli. Technically, the term is used in the systems’ study where it describes the ability of a system to adjust quickly to suddenly altered external conditions and maintain stable operations flawlessly.

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It denotes, here, Pakistan Navy with a capability to respond to existing and emerging threats – persistent or morphing – by maintaining a steady and consistent disposition, not showing lack of organizational and combat potential to respond.

The compound phrase ‘responsivity continuum’ means responsiveness across the spectrum of conflict, tailored with the right set of skills and capabilities that can be brought to bear in relatively less reaction times. It signifies that Pakistan Navy’s developmental and operational strategies would be responsive in a continuum (within range or a band) of challenges and threats without taking a lot of time in evaluation and adaptation. Why Pakistan Navy is adopting, as it seems, the theme of ‘responsivity continuum’ is the question answered in this note.

Pakistan Navy believes that threats are swiftly mutating, within both the traditional and non-traditional domains. Indian Navy’s capability-based forward planning and existence of maritime terror and non-state actors’ violent agenda are substantially influencing Pakistan Navy’s operational choices. Pakistan’s traditional rival, India’s military modernization, in recent years, has conspicuously altered Pakistan’s threat perceptions.

Indian ambitions to dominate the region have caused India to undertake a highly expensive militarization. This is most apparent in the maritime domain in the conventional and non-conventional buildup of forces such as acquiring more aircraft carriers, submarines as well as working on a functional nuclear triad. It is through this endeavour that India believes it will finally be able to dominate Pakistan once and for all. However, as yet, it has not been able to achieve success as was apparent in the largely lacklustre performance of its naval fleet during the post-Balakot crisis with examples such as the failed infiltration bid of its submarine on 4th March 2019.

Changing mosaic of the Indian naval threat is a stimulus, stronger of all extrinsic factors, which has necessitated Pakistan Navy to follow, what Alvin Toffler once called, ‘unlearn-learn’ model and adapt to transformed threats. Resource scarcity means Pakistan Navy cannot opt for a ‘quantity-matched’ response, but it has to have ‘quality–matched’ mechanics mounted on superior operational art. Pakistan Navy’s operational transition from ‘time-centric’ to time & space-centric’ construct is reflective of one of the responsivity strands, where the surface combatants have been reorganized and relocated as ‘surface task groups’ along the Pakistani coast.

This ‘organo-operational’ shift is also indicative of what the Pakistani Naval Chief, Admiral Zaffar Mehmood Abbasi, asserts is ‘leveraging the operational geography’. He believes the spatial distribution of naval ships is appositely configured to orchestrate naval action against Indian sea lines of communication in the West while delivering required lethality in the East. This reminds me of the Russian approach, which James J. Schneider calls the ‘distributed operations’.

A crucial aspect of responsivity continuum is the ability to deliver all domain firepower. Precision, reliability and lethality of weapon systems that would determine operational responsiveness of Pakistan’s Navy, have frequently been trialled, during the last two months. Pakistan Navy reported to have test-fired, successfully, various surface, subsurface, air and land-based missiles.

Live weapon firings, it appears, has now become an integral part of major maritime activities of Pakistan Navy, which would help establish itself as a dependable professional force able to function under myriad threats and diverse security situations. Pakistan Navy’s coastal command, comprising mainly of Marines, has also tested its ground-based air defence weapon on an airborne platform. Shore-based, Zarb anti-ship missile system, has already been tested and handed over to a naval missile unit that stewards Pakistani coast with a kill range of over 300 km. Cumulatively these weapons enable Pakistan Navy stand a fairground against its enemy, the Indian Navy.

While India would want to retain its ‘status’ as a regional maritime power but it should remind itself the need to maintain the Indo-Pak crisis stability. That implies India must reduce the regional entropy by avoiding to present Pakistan incentives leading to reduction of crisis stability.

These incentives may range from provocative manoeuvres by Indian ships to frequent operation and later detection of India submarines close to Pakistani coast. Seeing Pakistan Navy’s obvious posture of ‘responsivity continuum’ the next Indian submarine detected off Pakistani waters may not be as fortunate as the previous 209 and Kalvari class boats that came within strike range of Pakistan naval aviation but were allowed to go back to India.

Salman Javed is a graduate of National Defense University, Islamabad and a member of Board of Directors, Maritime Study Forum. Views Personel.