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To counter Modi’s Indian Ocean outreach, Pakistan unveils maritime doctrine

NEW DELHI,IFTIKHAR GILANI : Countering Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s grandiose plans and outreach for Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Pakistan is developing its maritime doctrine aimed at developing coherence and uniformity of action within Pakistan Navy and promoting cooperation with Army, Air Force, allied navies and coalition partners.

Modi’s March 2015 visit to the Seychelles and Mauritius provided signalled that the Indian Ocean littoral is at the “top of policy priorities.” He made it clear that New Delhi will do whatever may be necessary to secure India’s mainland and island territories and defend its maritime interests, keeping in view that 26/11 Mumbai attack had come through sea route.

Pakistani media on Tuesday quoted author of the doctrine retired Commander Muhammad Azam Khan as saying that its formulation had been necessitated by the evolving threat matrix and maritime environment in the IOR. “With the regional environment of IOR being marred by uncertainty and political instability, Pakistan has to maintain its maritime security, be cognisant of its security interests and put forth its doctrinal assumptions based on concepts governing application of maritime forces, the command and control structures and a carefully crafted role for its naval forces,” he said.

Besides the security element and development of better ties with allied navies, the doctrine also envisages protection of shipping and commercial interests and addressing issues like climate change and rise of sea level. “The evolving strategic environment in the region requires Pakistan Navy to develop a balanced mix of capabilities to rise up to the challenge,” he said.

India had gifted Seychelles a second Dornier aircraft for maritime monitoring and also signed an agreement for conducting hydrographic surveys. During his last visit, Modi had also launched a coastal surveillance radar project. The radar initiative is part of an ambitious project to build a maritime domain awareness network across the Indian Ocean. It calls for the establishment of eight surveillance radars in Mauritius, eight in Seychelles, six in Sri Lanka, and 10 in Maldives. These will be linked to over 50 sites on the Indian coast and connected to an integrated analysis centre near Delhi.

In Mauritius, Modi attended the commissioning of the Indian-made offshore patrol vessel Barracuda, marking his commitment to maritime capacity building in small island republics. He also announced agreements to develop infrastructure for connectivity in the Assumption Island in the Seychelles and Aga Lega in Mauritius. These are likely to strengthen the defense capabilities of the two republics and give India a valuable foothold at critical locations in South Western Indian Ocean.

Reports also suggest that the maritime doctrine also entailed armed its navy with nuclear missile capability. Islamabad has already announced to acquire at least eight modified diesel-electric attack submarines from China by 2028 in a nearly US $5 billion agreement, which is said to be the biggest arms export deal for the Communist giant. The head of Pakistan’s next-generation submarine programme and senior naval officials briefed the members of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Defence on August 26 regarding the deal worth approximately US $4-5 billion, according to state-run media.

The first indication ofnuclearisationn of Pakistan Navy (PN) had came in May 2012 when Pakistan tested the Hatf VII (Babur)— an indigenously developed Cruise Missile with high precision and manoeuvrability. Last year the PN also inaugurated the Headquarters of the Naval Strategic Force Command (NSFC). A statement from the Pakistan military’s Inter Services Public Relations said that the NSFC “will perform a pivotal role in development and employment of the Naval Strategic Force,” and was “the custodian of the nation’s 2nd strike capability” – presumably for use against India, in case the need ever arose.

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