Maritime security and naval cooperation between China and Pakistan

By Saima Ali

As we know that security of maritime components of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a top priority of the Pakistan. That’s why Pakistan Navy and PLA Navy are amplifying their existing maritime cooperation, keeping in mind the changing regional international circumstances.  Military cooperation between the two countries is widespread and it covers equipment, personnel exchanges and joint exercises. Pakistan strongly sustains PLA Navy’s improved role in the international arena. In October 2015, Pakistan had announced its decision to acquire eight Type 41 Yuan-class diesel-electric submarines, half of which may be built in Pakistan while the other half would be made in China and transferred.

With focus on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Navies of both sides recently engaged in a joint exercise aimed at promoting maritime security and stability in the region. The fourth joint exercise, which began on Thursday, concluded on November 21, 2016.

China and Pakistan are situated in an area that has great geographical importance and hosts almost half of the world’s population. Along with the human resources, the area is also rich in natural material resources. This speaks volumes about the importance of stability in the region and of amiable relations between the countries situated here. The fact that three of the seven declared nuclear states of the world are situated here, and another, Russia, has its own interests in the region because of Central Asian states’ being contiguous to the region, further add to the importance of this region.

The lingering issue of Kashmir along with the extremist trends and rivalry or competition between two or more states in the region states with hegemonic designs exploits the situation by maintaining the status quo or even exacerbating the problems. In this context Pakistan China naval collaboration is another throne in the eyes of Indian naval strategists. India has been closely monitoring the activities of Pakistan navies in its own territorial waters. The recent incident of Indian submarine entering in Pakistan territorial waters on November 14, 2016 is a solid proof. As a reaction India is quickly upgrading its naval arsenal to counter the peril posed by joint Pakistan – China Navies in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.

As security of maritime components of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a top priority of the Pakistan Navy. Subsequent to formal inauguration of the Gwadar Port on Sunday, the cargo shipments were set off from the world’s largest deep-sea port under the protection of the PN ships. The first mega pilot project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) successfully kicked off when the first ever cargo containers arrived from Kashgar to Gwadar. The cargo containers were subsequently exported to Middle East and African countries. Pakistan Navy, being aware of its responsibility to make the maritime component of CPEC and Gwadar Port safe, deployed its ships and aircraft to provide security cover so as to ensure safe and secure trade transit in international waters, the statement added.

With the operationalization of the Gwadar Port, the maritime traffic to and from Pakistani ports is expected to increase manifold; therefore, the Pakistan Navy has adopted a multi-divided approach to deal with the existing disputes such as increasing up security at the Gwadar Port, conducting security patrols and coastal exercises, enhancing maritime domain awareness and engaging law enforcement agencies. Pakistan Navy is considering buying super-fast ships from China and Turkey for its special squadron to be deployed at the Gwadar Seaport for the security purpose. A ship-building project is being deliberated at the Port Qasim in Karachi and Gawadar. The two advanced shipyards would design and develop ships and other security equipment for Pakistan Navy.

“A squadron may have four to six warships,” an official of Pakistan Navy told The Express Tribune on the sidelines of the on-going defence exhibition, IDEAS 2016, at the Karachi Expo Centre.

The role of maritime forces has increased in Pakistan since the country has made the Gwadar Seaport operational and speeded up economic activities under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).The Pakistan Navy also vowed to remain fully committed and geared up to provide   a conducive environment to uninterrupted flow of the maritime trade in the exclusive economic zone. One thing is quite obvious that the success of the CPEC and the Gwadar Port project is linked to safe and secure maritime environment in the Indian Ocean region in general and in the Arabian Sea in particular.

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Saima Ali

Saima Ali is a Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute and can be reached at [email protected]

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