Pakistan Counters India-US War Games Near Its Border With ‘Largest-Ever’ Maritime Drills

At a time when India is holding joint war games with the US, its arch-rival Pakistan is all set to host the seventh edition of ‘Aman 21’ maritime exercise involving 45 countries, touted as the largest-ever naval drill.

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These countries will participate in the exercise with surface and air assets, special operation forces/marine teams, and observers/senior officers, Commander Pakistan Fleet, Rear Admiral Naveed Ashraf, said during a media briefing on Monday.

The ‘Aman 21’ maritime exercise will be held in the North Arabian Sea from February 11 to 16, with a mission to counter regional peace and counter maritime challenges, according to the Pakistan Navy. This year’s exercise will be a major event in maritime history, with the participation of the three largest navies — the US, China, and Russia among other nations.

This will also be the first time in about a decade that Russia will participate in a joint military exercise with NATO members.

Experts see this as a sign of Pakistan’s rising geopolitical status in the world, with the global powers – the US and China – vying for influence in the country. They regard the dominance in Pakistan as the key to holding the global power status for any country.

During a recent interview with China’s state-owned Global Times, Chief of the Naval Staff of the Pakistan Navy (PN), Admiral M Amjad Khan Niazi, said, “The increased participation reflects growing trust in the value of the exercise and the PN’s credibility in bringing navies of the East and West under a common platform, for good of the global commons.”

He said that the participation by a number of navies is indicative of Pakistan’s standing in the international community, its strong multilateral ties, and desire among all the participating countries to join hands in advancing peace and stability in the region, for our collective good.

Pakistan Navy’s transnational approach through these exercises is being seen as a glaring outcome of its naval diplomacy to project itself as a responsible state in the global community and enhance its status as a peace-loving and hospitable country.

More significant is the participation of Russia in the Aman-21 exercises for the first time ever, seen as a symbolic gesture by the country towards its new geostrategic vision and changing power dynamics. The participation of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in the exercises along with the NATO countries is also significant because Moscow has been at loggerheads with the Western military alliance for years.

Pakistan hopes to become a platform for the West-led alliance and Russia and China to come together for the first time and explore avenues for peace. At the same time, the exercise will facilitate the aspirations of the Pakistan Navy to transform itself into a blue-water force, as it accelerates its efforts to acquire modern warships, submarines, and unmanned systems.

A file photo Aman Exercise

The newly-built Gwadar Port has also enhanced Pakistan’s geostrategic importance, on which rests the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), necessitating the maritime security needs in the region.

The port holds immense economic and strategic importance for Pakistan and is located at the cross-junction of international sea shipping and oil trade routes, making it a potential trade hub for the country. Experts contend that the port provides strategic leverage for Pakistan over India considering its distance from the Indian coast.

The Aman-21 exercise aims to strengthen and develop naval cooperation among the world navies to promote regional stability and counter maritime threats.

According to the statement from Pakistan Navy Chief Admiral Amjad Khan Niazi, the exercises offer the participating counties a chance to “work together keeping differences aside to defeat common adversaries” and to engage in hybrid warfare such as terrorism, piracy, terrorism, drugs and arms trafficking, human trafficking and climate change.

He said that the harbor phase of the exercise will involve “activities that include seminars, discussions, demonstrations, and international get-togethers, while the sea phase would demonstrate tactical maneuvers on anti-piracy, counterterrorism, gunnery firing and search and rescue missions”.

“The hallmark of the sea phase would be the international fleet review, which will be witnessed by national and foreign dignitaries from one of Pakistan Navy’s bigger ships,” he added.

The exercises will help Pakistan bolster its maritime defenses as it aims to secure its trade routes and new ports by collaborating with other powerful navies around the world.

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