‘Aman 21’ brings Russia, NATO in joint drill for first time in decade

This year’s exercise is more significant as it brings the three largest navies, US, China and Russia, under one platform for collaborative maritime security

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Navy is all set to host the largest multinational maritime exercise ‘Aman 21’ in the North Arabian Sea this month and this will be the first time in a decade that Russia will participate in a joint military exercise with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) members.

This year’s exercise is more significant as it brings the three largest navies, US, China and Russia, under one platform for collaborative maritime security. More than 45 countries will take part in the 7th exercise of the series being held every two years since 2007.

The objectives of the multinational maritime exercise, including contribution to regional peace and stability; a united resolve against terrorism, crimes and other threats in the maritime domain; and to bridge the gap and enhance interoperability among regional and extra-regional navies with Pakistan Navy acting as a bridge in the region.

Chief of Naval Staff (CONS) Admiral Amjad Khan Niazi said recently that Aman (Peace) exercise under the motto ‘Together for Peace’ offers the participating countries a chance to work together keeping differences aside to defeat common adversaries and hybrid warfare such as terrorism, piracy, terrorism, drugs and arms trafficking, human smuggling, and climate change.

Pakistan Navy initiated the exercise in 2007 with only three participants but the message of collaborative maritime security was widely accepted and the participation greatly expanded.

As many as 46 countries and 115 observers participated in Aman-19 naval exercises and around 11 navies, including those of China, US, UK, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Malaysia, Oman, Sri Lanka participated with their warships.

It is a huge achievement for the Pakistan Navy that the number of participating countries grew immensely in a few years as the message of peace and collaboration appealed to both eastern and western navies, NATO and non-NATO members.

In comparison, India’s Malabar Exercise, which started in 1992 and attracted only three navies, Pakistan’s Aman exercise garnered global recognition as it is not against any country and benefits all states.

The exercise should not be seen as war games but drills against non-traditional security threats as the primary goal of Aman exercise is to uphold peace and stability in the region.

With the growing competition between China and the United States in the region, Pakistan has chosen to act as a bridge in the region due to its traditional role as a peacemaker in the maritime domain.

Through the Aman exercise, Pakistan will once again play the role of a peacemaker and provide a platform for China and Russia on one side and the US and allies on the other side to come together.

The exercise is also an enabler of Pakistan Navy’s ambitions of transforming into a blue-water force as it is in the process of equipping itself with the modern surface, airborne, submerged and unmanned systems to develop capabilities to play a greater role in the Indian Ocean region.

Pakistan’s unique geostrategic importance has further elevated with the development of the new Gwadar Port under the multi-billion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which calls for enhanced maritime security.

Gwadar Port is located close to the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil transit choke-point, and connects three regions: South Asia, Middle East and Central Asia. Pakistan Navy’s initiatives such as the Aman exercise are also vital to secure the national and global sea routes in the IOR, country’s maritime security, and overall national security.

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