Pakistan Navy’s modernization will deter India’s maritime threat

Pakistan Navy’s modernization will deter India’s maritime threat

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In the last few years there has been a significant rise in the types and intensity of maritime threats that Pakistan is facing. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), development of Gwadar port and Pakistan’s justifiable response in support of the beleaguered Kashmiris have intensified the hostility of India. This has led Pakistan to undertake measures to ensure its maritime security including coastal security and freedom of navigation.
Another important factor is Indian Navy’s highly ambitious build up in maritime capability that Pakistan cannot afford to overlook. Briefly, the Indian Navy plans to have a force level of 200 ships-- an increase of 50 ships by 2027. In this build up it has the support of the US, Japan and several Western countries. What is worrisome is that India is likely to direct the enhanced capability in destabilizing Pakistan rather than aiming it at China-- because it realizes it is not in a position at present to confront China but can use it effectively against Pakistan.
The Pakistan Navy in view of these increasing types and intensity of maritime threats has plans to enhance its operational capability by inducting new warships, submarines and weapon systems. This upgrading is essentially defensive and aims to counter India’s hegemonic designs.
The recent evolution of the Pakistan Navy shows how far it has travelled in its quest to be a formidable military component. The outgoing Pakistan Naval Chief Admiral Abbasi in his valedictory address elaborated on this aspect.
In some detail he covered the salient features of how, during his tenure he has focused on transforming the Pakistan Navy into a combat- ready force. The focus is to lay special attention on battle readiness and professional competence.
During Admiral Abbasi’s tenure, the Pakistan Navy has undoubtedly achieved these goals. An unambiguous demonstration of this as mentioned by him and acknowledged widely was the conflict situation post Pulwama in which Pakistan’s armed forces ‘gave a befitting response and won the battle.’
According to its modernization plan, the Pakistan Navy will be adding another 50 vessels, including 20 major ships.
It is increasingly relying on China and Turkey as the major suppliers of these systems. A contract for four frigates from China and four medium-class ships from Turkey has been signed. The contracts envisage Pakistan also building its indigenous repair, rebuild and manufacturing capability in close cooperation and partnership with these countries. This aspect of technology transfer was not easily accessible during the procurement of naval vessels from Western sources.

Pakistan’s experience has been that few countries are willing to transfer technology or are even prepared to sell military hardware and software due to their leanings toward India or in compliance of their restrictive laws. In these circumstances Pakistan’s close collaboration with China and Turkey has been very helpful.

Talat Masood

It is not surprising that the former Naval Chief made a specific reference to the Hangor submarine project in which four submarines will be built in China and four in the Pakistani shipyard thereby strengthening its indigenous manufacturing capability.
Beijing has also transferred a Chinese Yuan-class submarine to train Pakistani crews for its Hangor submarines. The building of these submarines would pose a great challenge as it involves sophisticated technology and intricate industrial processes. But past experience reminds us that China has been very forthcoming in facilitating and strengthening Pakistan’s technological and industrial base.
There are other naval projects that are in different stages. Once operationalized, these will significantly increase its combat effectiveness.
Pakistan Navy is developing the hypersonic P282 ship-launched anti-ship/ land-attack ballistic missile. Realizing the importance of indigenous research and development, it has established the Naval Research and Development Institute. The object is to promote capability for indigenous design and development. At present, Pakistan Navy is engaged in programs that include frigates, Hangor-class submarines, UAV jammers, directed –energy weapons, underwater sonar surveillance coastal defense systems, unmanned underwater vehicles and unmanned combat aerial vehicles. It also plans to replace the P-3C Orion patrol aircraft with 10 commercial jets. It is planning the acquisition of medium-altitude; long- endurance unmanned combat aerial vehicles and 20 indigenous gunboats that are to be commissioned by 2025.
One of the major outcomes of collaboration with China and other friendly countries has been a greater emphasis on indigenous production. Pakistan’s defense industry today reflects this aspect in a pronounced way.
Pakistan’s experience has been that few countries are willing to transfer technology or are even prepared to sell military hardware and software due to their leanings toward India or in compliance of their restrictive laws. In these circumstances Pakistan’s close collaboration with China and Turkey has been very helpful.
Interestingly, China too has benefited from its defense collaboration with Pakistan as in the early 70’s and even later it provided a window to Western military equipment and developments.
The central aim of these programs is not to match the Indian Navy but to develop a sufficient defensive capability to deter India despite its fairly formidable naval structure.
The Navy’s modernization will facilitate its second-strike capability, as chances of survivability of the naval force would increase.
Pakistan Navy is planning to increase its frigate fleet by 50 percent and the submarine by nearly doubling it. Clearly, the modernization plans once realized will provide a significant boost to Pakistan’s maritime capabilities.
There are also reports that Pakistan is importing unmanned combat aerial vehicles from China. This would be another very useful addition in the Navy’s inventory.
The expanded mandate and subsequent modernization efforts of the Pakistan Navy were necessary in the light of the growing threat of India. Moreover, the importance of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and development of the strategic Gwadar port has further enhanced the role of the Navy.
– Talat Masood is a retired Lieutenant General from Pakistan Army and an eminent scholar on national security and political issues.
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