In today’s complex and dynamic threat environment, military leaders must effectively employ limited resources to execute their country’s national security strategy. Proceedings asked sea-service commanders around the world: It is often said that a nation’s national defense decisions are ultimately derived from its own sovereign interests. Given this presumption, what are the global trends that most influence your national security decision making and how does your navy use its operating policies, alliances, and partnerships to address these trends?
Admiral M. Asif Sandila
Change being the only constant, the global-security calculus continues to evolve and reshape the threat canvas. Unlike in the past, nations are now confronted with issues of transnational concern such as terrorism, piracy, cyber threat, and organized crime emanating from non-state actors that have no defined boundaries or dimensions. In the new millennium, interdependence has gained prominence owing to the cumulative impact of globalization, depleting energy resources, and the asymmetric dimension of threat. These new security challenges have reshaped the maritime environment as well and forced navies the world over to rethink their roles and force structures.
In the economic context, continuous flow of trade and energy supplies— primarily by way of the sea—has gained exponential significance. As a result, there is an increasing quest for access to resources, a quest in which nations increasingly rely on the use of smart power.
As a matter of policy, the Pakistan Navy (PN) supports the traditional freedom of navigation on the high seas and would not like to see international law undermined. Preventing terrorism at sea and curbing its links with transnational crime are high on the PN’s agenda. Considering Pakistan’s heavy reliance on sea trade, the most significant challenge for the navy is to ensure a safe and secure environment in the North Arabian Sea.
While fulfilling national-defense requirements, the PN is also providing security to the major waterways through which the world’s oil flows. In the aftermath of 9/11, security of these waterways has become an international concern. The navy plays a lead role in support of international efforts aimed at maintaining maritime order in this region. Being fully conscious of the emerging maritime situation, the PN has all along remained engaged with coalition maritime forces and actively participates in Combined Task Forces 150 and 151.
In addition to participation in the Coalition Maritime Campaign Plan and counter-piracy operations, the service has taken on other initiatives for collaborative maritime security. In this regard, the Aman series of exercises, first initiated in 2007, has become a biennial event. The fourth Aman exercise was conducted from 4–8 March 2013 at Karachi and participation by a large number of navies (29 to be precise) was a manifestation of the common objective to be united against contemporary maritime challenges. This also justifies the slogan of exercise Aman which calls for being “Together for Peace.”
In the same spirit of constructive engagement, the PN has accorded due focus to maritime diplomacy, and in the last five years our ships have docked at the ports as far as Shanghai, New York, Cape Town, Darwin, and Tokyo. All these activities clearly demonstrate that the PN is fully cognizant of the global trends that can have an influence on our national security. Consequently, the PN has well-articulated policies, alliances, and partnerships in place to ensure that national security is not undermined in any way.