Cracking the FATA Code

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan (better known by its acronym FATA) had been created in 1849 to serve as a buffer between British India and Afghanistan, while Afghanistan itself was being softened through invasions, coercion, subsidies and diplomacy to keep Czarist Russia at bay. Having entered into a joint agreement with the Afghan Emir for the demarcation of the international border, the British also managed to persuade Russia to follow suit, resulting thereby in bifurcating the Pashtun tribes on the British side and the Turkmen, Uzbek and Tajik Territories on the Russian side of the demarcated Afghan border.

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World Maritime Day 2017 – Connecting Ships, Ports and People

The World Maritime Day is being formally celebrated by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) on 28 September 2017. The IMO, for those who may not be aware, is the principal organ of the United Nations dealing with and coordinating all maritime related issues ranging from safety, security and environmental concerns to training standards of seafarers and even technical cooperation aspects. It is this organisation which, mindful of the massive contribution made by the international maritime industry in bolstering the global economy, instituted the World Maritime Day that has since become a regular annual feature in the calendar of all seafaring nations. The first time this day was celebrated was on 17 March 1978 to mark the 30th anniversary of the convention which created the IMOs parent organisation, the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation. The member states have since swelled from 21 to 169 at present. While commemorating the day, the IMO keeps highlighting a different aspect of its work each year. This day also serves as a reminder to all and sundry that a vibrant and sustainable blue economy is a boon to all mankind.

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CPEC – Building Bridges in a Troubled Region

 

No sooner had the Karakoram Highway, which connects the northern stretches of  Pakistan with China’s westernmost autonomous region through the high-altitude Khunjerab Pass, opened for business in 1979, it ushered in its wake numerous possibilities and opportunities. Hasan Abdal, which constitutes the starting point of this highway, was already connected to the North South road and rail network from  Peshawar to Karachi. Most of the developments that followed, like the motorway branches emanating from Lahore for instance, all took place along the already developed areas of the River Indus and its tributaries. This made good commercial and political sense at the time as all major centres of population as well as those associated with agricultural and industrial productivity were concentrated there.

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Driven By Evolution, God’s Creation!

Although Darwin has managed to whip up a frenzy for unleashing a ‘dangerous idea’ that supposedly undercuts religious beliefs about creationism- that all species were concurrently created in their present form by God a couple of thousand years ago- the fact is that in his magnum opus ‘The Origin of Species’, based on his painstaking practical observations during his extensive scientific forays in and around South America, the Galápagos Islands in particular, Darwin just shows how one species gradually changes into another, without really exploring in detail the origin of life. His basic premise, that all life forms evolved from a single cell organism, came in later articles. The one thing the Catholic Church latched on to, about apes being man’s immediate forefather, earned him a great deal of scorn for not only belittling man, but also belittling the word of God.
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Indian Ocean Naval Symposium – Towards Regional Maritime Cooperation

Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, simply speaking, is a maritime forum set up for the express purpose of enhancing collaboration in terms of collective security between states whose shores, inclusive of permanently held territories, are washed by the Indian Ocean as well as those which have a visible stake in its future. I wouldn’t be at all surprised though if most of the readers find this terminology(IONS) unfamiliar, as it doesn’t feature much in the news. This is possibly about to change as Pakistan’s involvement becomes increasingly prominent. Ever since the inaugural symposium was successfully hosted by the Indian Navy in 2008 on the vital theme of ‘Contemporary Trans-national Challenges – International Maritime Connectivities’, IONS has been providing a much-needed forum for naval professionals, specifically naval chiefs, of all member states from the South Asian, West Asian(Middle East), East African, South East Asian and Australian littorals, to directly interact with each other in a bid to enhance maritime cooperation and generate better mutual understanding. The involvement in this forum of the top tier of naval leadership of the Indian Ocean littoral states enables cooperative solutions to be found to the common maritime problems that plague the region.
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The United Nations – Geared for Change?

For I dipp’d into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the vision of the world, and all the wonders that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens filled with shouting, and there rain’d a ghastly dew,
From the nations’ airy navies grappling in the central blue,
Till the war drums throbbed no longer and the battle flags were furled,
In the Parliament of Man, the Federation of the world.

(Lord Alfred Tennyson, Locksley Hall, 1842)

The Phoenix-like emergence of the United Nations Organisation from the ashes of the Second World War was a calculated move to fend off the possibility of such a catastrophe ever recurring, something that its much-discredited predecessor, the League of Nations, had failed to do. To be fair, the sort of baggage the League of Nations had been saddled with had primed it for disaster. For one thing, the Covenant of the League, drawn up by the victors of the First World War, was primarily designed to supplement the terms of the uneven peace treaty with Germany. Such arrogance was not well received in the US, whose senate refused to ratify the Covenant.
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Negotiating the Intricacies of the Maritime Domain

Abstract

From an historical perspective, activities at sea can be characterised by coastal trade, transoceanic passages, piracy, subjugation, profiteering and colonisation, a subsidiary objective being the gaining of ascendency on land. The maritime field has over time undergone a drastic transformation, both on the military and non-military fronts. Amongst a horde of other activities, sea connectivity and trade take pride of place as drivers of the global economy. The International Maritime Organisation, which cobbled together the UN Convention on Law of the Sea in 1982, assists in the crafting of much-needed maritime conventions to fulfill the vital need of establishing universally acceptable standards for maritime safety, security and environmental protection.

Present day maritime activities and processes now fall under the all-enveloping term ‘Maritime Domain’ and thus ‘Maritime Domain Awareness’ becomes a prerequisite for the materialisation of maritime aspirations. Pakistan is admittedly a coastal state but before it can even dream of becoming a maritime power, it has to shed off its historical baggage and stand prepared to overhaul its manner of doing business by creating an autonomous, effective and efficient administration. A dedicated and fully functional maritime administration is the key to looking after a state’s maritime interests, inclusive of the international obligations required of a flag state as well as the judicial exercise of Port State Control.

Being a signatory to more than two dozen odd maritime conventions, Pakistan can only satisfactorily meet its national and international obligations if it is professionally geared to do so, which is why the enactment of domestic maritime legislation continues to be a weak area. In a domain constantly in flux, stagnancy is not an option. Changes within have to be brought about, administratively, operationally and functionally, to cater to the changes without. This forms the crux of the problem which stands in the way of the country transitioning from a coastal state to a responsible coastal state to a successful maritime power.
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Appraisal of the Military Strategies of Major Powers in the Indian Ocean

Though one amongst the three large bodies of water that link countries and continents together, the Indian Ocean stands apart by virtue of its unique topography and its monsoonal wind patterns. Despite being enclosed on three sides by a contiguous land mass, with the fourth side constrained by the forces of nature, this ocean has always been receptive to coastal and transoceanic trade. Its periphery is ringed by straits, gulfs and channels, which have not only facilitated trade but have also served as chokepoints for those inclined to control the free movement of goods.
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Suez and Panama Canals – Feats of Human Ingenuity

During the heydays of the British Empire, when it was entrenching itself ever so firmly in the heart of the Indian Ocean, it could not have failed to appreciate the strategic and economic advantages that a direct trade route through the Red Sea and the Mediterranean would confer. The two seas had after all been historically linked for millennia, till an eighth century Abbasid Caliph had it closed for supposedly tactical reasons. In more modern times, the idea of building a canal through the Isthmus of Suez has been credited to the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who during an expedition to Egypt in 1798, was quick to grasp its utility in pressuring his country’s  traditional foe. The plan had to be aborted soon after, when a miscalculation in the sea level measurement between the two seas scuttled its feasibility.
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Emerging Opportunities in the Indian Ocean Sea Trade Regime

Sea trade has been universally recognized as the principal driver of the global economy. It was however in the Indian Ocean that coastal trade as well as transoceanic passages are believed to have originated. This ocean is also unique in the sense that its wide expanse is enclosed on three sides by land, while the southern perimeter is hemmed in by the forces of nature, and indeed during most of its history, ships rarely ventured beyond the Tropic of Capricorn. On closer inspection, one can discern a number of seas and channels on its periphery, which enabled early traders like the Greeks, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Arabs, Indians and even the Chinese to move freely around, and even beyond the ocean, spreading and assimilating cultural and religious influences.
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About Me

I am a retired Rear Admiral of the Pakistan Navy who has done a three-year post retirement stint as the Director General of the National Centre for Maritime Policy Resarch housed at the Bahria University Karachi Campus.

During my eventful 38-year long naval career, I had the good fortune to command two destroyers as well as the 25th Destroyer Squadron. I also served as the Flag Officer Sea Training. I did my Principal Warfare Officer’s course from SMOPS, HMS Dryad, UK in 1979, my staff course from the Royal Naval Staff College at Greenwich,UK, in 1983-84 and my war course from the National Defence College, Islamabad, in 1998-99.