A Floating Testament to Pak-Turkey Naval Collaboration

The expected launch of an indigenously-constructed Fleet Tanker at the Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works Ltd on 19 August 2016 marks a significant milestone in the history of Pak-Turkey defence collaboration. These two countries have always enjoyed the most fraternal of ties and under its overarching warmth, cooperation at the military, and more particularly the naval, level has continued to blossom. The first time this relationship got formalised was under the Turco-Pak treaty of 1954, which inter alia also dealt with the vital subject of defence collaboration. The Pakistan-Turkey Military Consultative Group(MCG) was subsequently set up in 1988 to give a physical boost to the process.
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Pak-US Ties – An Uneasy Alliance

Since Pakistan’s emergence on the world map, Pak-US ties have been characterised more by mutual dependence than shared interests as is the norm. America to its credit has always made its concerns clear: Soviet Union being its favourite bugbear till the end of the Cold War and the deceptively ambiguous war on terror thereafter. Though Pakistan officially tows the same line, its commitment is diffused by the singular prism, that of India, through which it views all its assessments.
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The Chabahar-Gwadar Conundrum

The prevailing sense of elation about the supposedly ultra-bright prospects of the Gwadar-CPEC projects has in recent times been dampened by news about the expected rise of  an adjoining port, a mere 70 kms away across the border in Iran. The signing of a trilateral MOU between India, Iran and Afghanistan to facilitate Indo-Afghan trade through Chabahar has added to the speculation. It is thus important to analyse such conjectures before they fully embed themselves  in our collective consciousness and thereby mislead the country into a knee jerk response with potentially disastrous consequences.
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Safeguarding the Vital Links in Sea Trade

Nothing encapsulates, and perhaps embodies, the spirit of globalisation better than world trade, most of which is carried out via the medium of the sea. Maritime trade can thus be said to be the pivot around which the global economy as well as our collective social well-being actually revolves. The enormous natural resources on land, coupled with a matching industrial capacity for value-addition, are not worth much were it not for a corresponding ability to trade freely over a terrain which, despite being used for common benefit, is still vulnerable to hybrid criminal threats.
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Combating Traditional and Non-traditional Threats at Sea

Navies all over the world, by virtue of the peculiar characteristics they are endowed with, play a significant role at all times in preserving the sanctity of the nation’s shores. Nontraditional challenges at sea like piracy, terrorism, poaching, narco-smuggling, gunrunning, human trafficking and environmental degradation have not only attained prominence, but tend to crop up in areas where they face the least resistance, thereby prompting the need for constant vigilance. Like in all illegal activities, there are fabulous sums of money to be made, which attracts all manner of criminal elements and even criminal enterprises in its fold. The involvement of organized crime in turn raises the bar for ruthlessness and violence at sea.
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Gwadar in Focus

Gwadar has had a turbulent yet lonely history. Though it has been visited, and even nominally managed at times, by the Macedonians, the Ummayad Arabs, the Omanis and even the British, it managed to retain its own identity till the turn of the last century. It goes to the credit of the inhabitants that they didn’t permit the Portuguese to establish a foothold there in the late sixteenth century, at a time when the latter’s grip on the maritime trade of the entire Indian Ocean region was virtually uncontested. Gwadar’s modern history can however be traced to the sanctuary given there to Sultan Said when he had lost out on a power struggle with his brother for the throne of Muscat across the Strait. Though the Sultan eventually managed to wrest control of Muscat 14 years later in 1797, he never really let go of Gwadar and continued to exercise jurisdiction there through an appointed Wali. Imprints of the Omani slave trade are still visible.
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Setting the Sea Afire – Exercise Seaspark

The Pakistan Navy’s annual war exercise code-named Seaspark is currently underway in the waters of the Arabian Sea. It happens to be the latest in a series of suchlike tactical exercises aimed at enhancing the Navy’s war fighting efficiency. The fleet’s maintenance schedule, in fact, is planned in such a manner that maximum number of ships, submarines, Maritime Patrol Aircraft and helicopters become available for participation. An year of phased work-ups at individual, squadron and fleet levels culminate in this vital exercise.
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Seawater Intrusion in the Indus Delta and Associated Hazards

Seawater intrusion into the once-fertile Indus Delta has unfortunately become a way of life, simply because almost everyone not directly impacted by this phenomenon has started taking it for granted and very few are willing to do anything about it. This has resulted in substantial damage to the ecology and biodiversity of the environment, as well as the regional economy and more specifically, the livelihood of the local inhabitants.
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A Time for Introspection

The Muslim ‘Ummah’, if it can be termed as such, is on the verge of imploding. Almost all countries in its fold are riven with strife, strife of their own making. The reason is not hard to find: a blatant disregard of the cardinal principle of unity as enshrined in the Quran, which enjoins the believers “to hold fast to the rope of Allah, and not be divided amongst themselves”. Divisions have always been, and continue to be, deliberately engineered by the ruling classes in a bid to indefinitely prolong their reign, using the clergy as a willing accomplice. Instead of the focus being on points of convergence, of which there are legion, the emphasis is regrettably on fomenting differences. Tribes are pitched against tribes and nation states against nation states; no heed is paid to the Quranic injunction about tribes being created ‘so that you may know each other’ and not be antagonistic towards each other. Sectarian feelings are deliberately inflamed, with minorities being at the receiving end, ignoring the Quranic caution to be patient and wait for Allah, Who alone knows everything, to reveal where we each erred. Patience is unfortunately not our strongest suit.
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Gwadar and CPEC – Reality Check

This is a subject which deserves to be tackled with utmost seriousness, as it is one in which it is becoming increasingly difficult to discern fact from fiction, and where rhetoric is found to trump reality every time. It will thus be my endeavour to present as realistic and pragmatic a picture as possible to enable this vital issue to be better understood in an wholesome perspective.

That the port of Gwadar and the interlinking corridor are vitally important to the country has been established beyond doubt. The trick lies in converting this vision into a viable reality. To do so, our foremost consideration should be to learn from history by analysing the fate of similar prestigious maritime-related projects, like for instance Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works Ltd, Port Bin Qasim and its adjoining steel mill and the on-going Karachi Deepwater Container Port. All were preceded by hype similar to the one we now hear about Gwadar and all of them are hardly success stories to warm the heart: some are floundering, some barely getting by, while the last one mentioned, the Karachi Deepwater Container Port, which is still struggling for closure, is destined to be headed for failure. The point worth understanding is that building ports and shipyards does not ipso facto make a country a great maritime power; running them well, does.
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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.