by Zia Ur Rehman

March 11, 2013

KARACHI – The Pakistani navy March 8 concluded five days of multi-national training operations in the North Arabian Sea 32km from Karachi in efforts to bolster international co-operation and to ensure peace and stability in the region.

Twelve other countries took part, while 32 observed the AMAN-13 exercises.

Pakistani naval troops conduct a counter-terrorism exercise during the AMAN-13 multi-national naval exercise in Karachi March 5. AMAN-13 is the fourth in a biennial series of exercises conducted off Pakistan’s coast, the Pakistani navy said in a statement. [REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro]
Ships, helicopters, submarines and special forces conducted anti-piracy drills, surface-to-surface target practice, vessel personnel transfers and provisioning, helicopter-to-ship boarding manoeuvres, anti-submarine warfare, and search and rescue operations during the drill organised by the Pakistani navy, a navy spokesperson told Central Asia Online.

In one exercise they carried out a scenario in which “pirates” had hijacked a ship. After organisers fired a flare to mark the distressed ship’s location, special forces descended upon it by helicopter and speedboat to take control of the vessel after “clashing with the pirates.”

The exercises are designed to provide a common forum for information sharing, mutual understanding and identifying areas of common interest among regional actors, Pakistani fleet commander Rear Admiral Khan Hasham bin Saddique said March 4 during the opening ceremonies.

“The slogan for the exercise is ‘Together for Peace,’ and all nations participating in the AMAN-13 share a common objective of ensuring peace and stability in the maritime arena,” he said.

Sharpened skills and collaboration counter maritime threats

The key objectives of the naval exercises include displaying a united resolve against terrorism and crimes and contributing toward regional peace and stability to bridge between regions, naval officials said. The exercise mainly focused on issues related to piracy, sea terrorism, human trafficking, and protection of marine interests and international trade.

Such multi-national exercises can clear shipping routes of such threats, observers say.

“Several threats complicate the security matrix in the Indian Ocean,” said defence analyst and columnist S.M. Hali. Shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean have been plagued by attacks by Somali pirates, who have hijacked dozens of ships and demanded millions of dollars in ransom for their release.

Piracy in the Indian Ocean, supported by Al-Qaeda-backed militant groups including Al-Shabaab, has become a huge global problem that threatens the international shipping industry, Pakistani seamen’s trade union leader Amajd Ali Shah told Central Asia Online. “It needs a globally joint and concentrated effort to curb it,” he said.

“Piracy and pirates are the most rising threat, which could be countered by collaboration of navies and by sharing tactics with each other,” Saddique said.

The Pakistani navy has always supported international efforts against terrorism and piracy, and the navy and other maritime forces of the country are proactively engaged in maintaining and further improving their capabilities, he said.

Hali agreed.

Successful execution of AMAN-13 is a significant demonstration of Pakistan’s commitment toward peace and stability through collaborative maritime security between navies of the different countries, he said.

Growing co-operation

This year’s event marked the fourth bi-ennial AMAN training operation since its inception in 2007, Saddique said. It provides a platform for information sharing, for developing tactics against asymmetrical and traditional threats and for boosting interoperability among all navies working in the region.

“All continents of the world are represented in the exercise to promote peace and stability in the region,” he said.