Military diplomacy creating a favorable international image of Pakistan

Military diplomacy creating a favorable international image of Pakistan

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The recently concluded sixth AMAN biennial multinational naval exercise was a spectacle of deterrence and cooperation to further Pakistan’s strategic interests linked with maritime security.  AMAN-19 was held from February 8 to 12 and involved 46 countries. International warships and observers participated in the event that upped Pakistan’s image of an important international partner contributing to the overall global security. 

Since the inception of the CPEC, the Indian Ocean has gained a significant status as a route that rivals both in cost and travel time with other sea routes to Middle Eastern and African countries.  Leaving China with clout, that merits awe and veneration.  

China has been awarded long-term lease rights to manage Gwadar port. This long-term engagement will enable China to use Gwadar as a supply and maintenance facility for its naval assets.  If needed, the channel can also transport China’s military hardware and personnel to Gwadar through Pakistan.  

In essence, the access to Gwadar will allow China a substantial enhancement of its military capabilities in the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Arabian Gulf. This expanded ambition and the potential of the Indian Ocean, becoming China’s power stay, have sent both the US and India into overtime caution and deterrence.  From their denial to outright rejection of the CPEC, it will not be easy for both China and Pakistan to have secure sea-lanes for smooth trade. 

In the evolving international scenario, diplomacy has gained exceedingly significant traction in maintaining peace and conflict resolution.  Though in practice for generations, maritime diplomacy’s current concept finds justification in the multipolar international system that requires tactful handling to balance multiple stakeholders’ powers.

Maritime as a part of the overarching defense diplomacy is not about managing tension by codifying international law but using military assets to manage relations themselves. Maritime diplomacy is divided into three categories: Cooperative, persuasive and coercive. The AMAN-19 joint exercise was carried out under the former category that also includes port visits, training and humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief.  As the name implies, cooperative diplomacy means that all the parties taking part in the maritime activities are involved willingly. It also means that the participating parties share a common political goal and does not aim to bully, compel or forcefully persuade the other member country.

In the evolving international scenario, diplomacy has gained exceedingly significant traction in maintaining peace and conflict resolution.  Though in practice for generations, maritime diplomacy’s current concept finds justification in the multipolar international system that requires tactful handling to balance multiple stakeholders’ powers.

Durdana Najam

After a long hiatus, Russia and NATO showcased joint exercises on the AMAN platform, making the US participate. The last time the Russian navy conducted joint military drills with NATO members was in the “Bold Monarch” exercise in 2011, which took place off Spain’s coast. 

The statement issued by the Russian Defense Ministry on the significance of the joint exercise stated: “The goal of the exercise was to strengthen and develop military cooperation between countries participating in the maneuvers in the interests of security and stability.”

On the sidelines of the “Peace — 2021” international naval exercises, Pakistan has also signed an agreement with Russia to supply the anti-tank system, anti-air weapons and Russian light weapons to Pakistan. 

Pakistan military strength has risen manifold in the last couple of years. With a diverse supply chain, the load has been taken off from the US and thrown into the Chinese and Russian baskets— the former contributing at a larger scale. On February 16, 2020, Pakistan test-launched its Ra’ad II option (also known as the Hatf VIII) nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missile. It has a stated range of 550-600 kilometers and can carry both conventional and nuclear payloads. India’s air defense modernization efforts may in part have influenced the development of the latest Ra’ad II. 

In January, the Global Firepower index 2021 ranked the Pakistan army as the 10th most powerful army in the world.  This new variant of power acclamation has not come without a price. Every dollar spent on defense assets deprives the development sector of the dollar required to build a strong police force, a reliable water supply system, an education sector that can impart free and quality education to every child till the age of 16, a responsive and dependable health sector, the presence of which is absolutely nil in the outskirts of urban cities. 

Pakistan has come a long way in military diplomacy and has secured its borders mostly from threats emanating from India and Afghanistan. However, the question of Pakistan’s internal insecurities vis-à-vis weak political infrastructure and an economy surviving on debt ventilator and corruption seeping into every segment stumping growth and development hangs heavy on an ordinary Pakistani who finds making both ends meet a chore every day.    

Notwithstanding its international image of a country with strong defenses, we need to make the right choices between gun and butter. Do we want a country of unskilled people, like we have today, or do we aspire for a nation of skilled people for a respectful standing in the comity of world nations? Even CPEC will not make us proud unless we make this hard choice.

Durdana Najam is an oped writer based in Lahore. She writes on security and policy issues. She can be reached at [email protected]

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