A Review Of Pakistan Navy And The Maritime Doctrine Of Pakistan

The President of Pakistan launched the first ever maritime doctrine on 20th December 2018. This mark as a huge success point for the country as there are many dimensions of the doctrine which need higher recognition. Having the access to the maritime doctrine of Pakistan, I feel obliged to mention a few interesting points that brought about the need to develop the doctrine.

Among the three categories of defense, the Navy turns out to be one of the most significant defensive lines to protect the national interests of a country. While we see armed warriors always ready to counter the threat occurring to Pakistan externally as well as internally, Pakistan Navy makes sure the protection of a state is in right hands by protecting the boundary lines through and from the sea, especially the Indian Ocean. It is the Mission of Pakistan Navy, as mentioned on their website, “To protect maritime interests of Pakistan, Deter aggression at and from sea, provide disaster relief, participate in development of coastal communities and contribute to international efforts in maintaining good order at sea.”

Since Pakistan’s defense is primarily indo-centric and according to this, Pakistan’s primary defensive line tends to be the army. Therefore, Pakistan Navy does not play a primary role in the initial hostilities. For which its Maritime Doctrine is quite different from the Air and military doctrine. This is to be notified that even if it is not a priority in dealing with initial hostilities, Navy is likely to be important in a prolonged conflict to maintain Pakistan’s access to crucial sea-lanes.

Keeping in mind Pakistan’s conflict with India, our naval contest with them is asymmetric. India has the world’s fifth largest navy including an operational Aircraft Carrier whereas Pakistan’s navy is far smaller and likely relies on Hit and Run tactics, utilizing its largely French-Built submarine force and US-supplied Harpoons and Anti-ship missiles. This becomes one of the grave concerns for Pakistan as India develops one of its own nuclear submarines which upsets the nuclear deterrence balance between the two rival states.

However since 2016, with the beginning of CPEC, Pakistan has brought about several changes maintaining the maritime force as a taskforce is set up to protect the Pak-china business and trade and provide a seal to Gwadar sea port. Since Gwadar is the main actor for the trade, it is the core responsibility of navy to create a protective environment and because of this several advancements have taken place in order to update the machinery to put them to fuller use

Developments have in process as in 2017, according to a Reuters report; Pakistan has tested its first nuclear missile submarine, as a deterrent against ‘Arch-Foe India’. The entire population in Pakistan is aware of the role played by Pakistan Army and Air Force and there remains a very less insight in the general people regarding the performance of Pakistan Navy.

Pakistan’s Naval history had been on an arduous road of formation and development but its role in the three major wars fought with Pakistan’s birth enemy cannot be denied in today’s date as it did serve its prior apart according to its need. The Royal Pakistan Navy (RPN) was formed with the formation of Pakistan with the control in the hands of the Britishers. With almost about 200 officers and 3000 sailors, Pakistan’s navy had to struggle for its role in the country. From the very beginning there was no formulation of Maritime doctrine as wars in the beginning were primarily focused on land and air and so the navy remained un-prioritized. However, the history of Navy still exists to be admired.

During the very first war between India and Pakistan on Kashmir issue broke out in 1948. RPN played its Vitol role in confronting the Royal Indian Navy in assisting the movements of stores and personnel for the Navy development and to rescue the Indian immigrants from the disputed tribal areas. Therefore, it was not only the trains that brought people to Pakistan. A lot of them were rescued by the RPN. Initially the Navy was dependent on hand to mouth existence of naval dimensions and machinery focusing on a few frigates, minesweepers, and trawlers. In the mid-1948, the acting real Admiral, commodore J.W Jeffords came up with the ‘Short Term Emergency Plan’ to begin with the development of the deteriorating RPN and to counter the beginning insurgencies by India. So, in the very beginning Pakistan’s maritime doctrine was focused to counter the threat by Indian Navy. Countering could have been possible only if we had a developed, well mechanized force but the idea was to deter any uprising as RPN was already at its worst form. So according to the given situation, RPN had intended to have a defensive strategy than an offensive one.

After the 1948 war it was evident that the biggest threat to RPN was the Indian forces that by now in the early 1949 had purchased destroyers and cruisers to enhance their equipment at naval sites, preparing their fleet for a war. Pakistan on the other hand had limited resources to such an extent that it was to be accepted that East Pakistan remained indefensible. Keeping in mind the technological advancement of India, Pakistan initiated its ‘FIVE YEAR PLAN’ stating that by 1954, Pakistan should acquire four more destroyers, submarines, patrol craft, minesweepers, O class trio, Seaward defense and many more things required by the RPN. However, lacking expenditure, Pakistan allied with the west to build up its naval requirements. From 150 to 1959, RPN focused mainly on assisting its manpower as it has now reached a sustainable number of equipment for which people needed to be trained to use them. Different training programs and high-level exercises were conducted with Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy, including New Zealand. By the end of 1959, commodore chaudhry takes over Jefford and initiates a western alliance by demanding submarine base. The proposal is rejected by the US but all along they provide us with an aid that could help equip Pakistan’s navy.

During the 1965, when the second war between Pakistan and India broke out, the instructions to the Navy were to play defensive and not to initiate any conflict with the Indian navy. However, this defensive strategy soon converted into an antagonistic conflict in which the Indian Air Force destroyed the PAF capabilities due to which the Navy had to turn the strategy to offensive lines and in the command of their naval chief of staff and commodore, the ‘Operation Dwarka’ was conducted in the state of Dwarka where the radar facilities were destroyed with the help of destroyer submarines of Pakistan navy.  This is not where the involvement of navy stops. After destroyer the radar system of Indian forces, Pakistan navy’s prestige rose to a higher-level alarming the Indian forces regarding their capabilities. Following the bombardment, the PNS Ghazi was faced towards the western fleet of Indian navy in Mumbai.

Since the defensive line of Pakistan navy was weak on the eastern coast and the enemy was aware of it, they conducted an ‘Operation Python’ facing and targeting Karachi which turned out to be a huge success as many of the Pakistan navy submarines and minesweepers were destroyed. During the 1971 war, the navy failed to counter the threat from one side, why? Because there remained gap of communication to counter the threat from the eastern side.

After a dreadful defeat during the 1971 war, it was a major concern for the military of Pakistan to strengthen its navy. Therefore, during the Kargil war when Indian naval forces tested their missiles include 35 ships in the Indian Ocean. It came to be imposing a threat to the security of Pakistan and therefore, it became Pakistan navy’s higher priority to protect Sindh and Baluchistan coast lines from the invasion of the enemy.

It is evident that Pakistan navy although has remained active in protecting the national interests of the country but have remained far from achieving massive developments. Just like army and air force, Pakistan navy has also seen Indian naval system as its biggest adversary in the Indian Ocean and has remained dedicated to countering the threat from Pakistan. However, if the threat has existed time and again, we do not find any drafted Maritime doctrine for Pakistan in the past, leaving it most questionable as to what defensive strategies have the navy adopted. Surprisingly, none. Just like the foreign policy of Pakistan, in practice we can relate the acts of navy to a strategy or a doctrine but presentably, there has existed no doctrine. It has merely been needing based and have changed from phase to phase, war to war. It is to state that the need base, time to time doctrine of Pakistan has been quite successful but while this shot term planning to deal with a crisis situation, it cannot be switched any further for a longer everlasting strategy.

Pakistan cannot be criticized in not having a doctrine for a very long time as the culture of formulating a maritime doctrine begin in 1996 with Great Britain being the first state to draft a Maritime Doctrine. Followed by many others like South Africa, Australia and lately India. India drafted its first doctrine in 2002 and in 2009 they have come up with their 2nd edition to it. This comes to be a challenge for Pakistan, as all defensive lines in Pakistan are Indo centric and respond with their establishments.

The draft formulation came forward through different articles in 2016, but tracing it back in time, the work for drafting a maritime doctrine begin way back in 2000, even before than that of India. From the very beginning Pakistan had remained dependent on the modal frameworks that existed by the great powers of the world. We have been copying the international systems rather than coming up with that of our own. The prototypical writing culture has never existed in Pakistan. Even today, most of the work that have been read throughout in Pakistan regarding important matters have been written and documented by either Britishers or Americans. When the quest for creating a doctrine began, for many it was a wasteful idea as they believed that the existence of British Doctrine is enough for Pakistan to follow with bringing about a few changes.

In an interview with Retd navy officer, Commander Naveed, he assessed that there were two schools of thought, one which believed that a few changes in the British doctrine will make Pakistan ready to go, while the other stated that, an effort should be made for drafting an original doctrine, specifically made for the Navy of Pakistan, catering to our own needs and strategies.  He mentioned that when India came up with its second edition in 2009, in 2010, serious work began in Pakistan to draft a doctrine of our own. Since it is a huge process of collecting the official documents and policy matters, it took time to formulate one suddenly. In his interview he stated,

“We are not late; we are in line with others.

He made this statement while highlighting the fact that among the 6 nations who have a maritime doctrine, Pakistan is the 6th one. This depicts that even being a weaker nation, with a broken international image, Pakistan had managed to draft a doctrine leaving behind many greater states like Germany, France, and many other well-developed nations.

Smaller nation but greater steps to prosperity. Pakistan Navy covers up a vast dimension of Indian Ocean Region. Pakistan navy is focused to spread its vigilance during peace and during war. This brings me to the point explaining that Maritime doctrine released in 2018 focuses on two most important dimensions. First being the economic dimension, in which all the human security, coastal security, protection of sea faring communities, ports, shipping, trade, maritime tourism and safeguarding the sea-based resources are included. It is just not a child’s play. Secondly, in a state of war, there is a military dimension including the Navy, coastal guards, coastal police etc.

Although we all remain aware of the maritime dimensions and their existence, nobody appreciates the work done by the navy. With this doctrine the purpose remains to acquaint all the officers and the people with the basic principles on which the use of maritime forces depends and to have a shared way of thinking. Also, to better appreciate the maritime component of the broader military strategy. Maritime awareness among the general masses is indeed close to nothing therefore trying to make them understand maritime potential of our nation is obligatory.

This doctrine and its points of need provide a fundamental basis of how the maritime strategy is supposed to be performed. The maritime strategy tends to focus all the traditional, non-traditional threats that exist in the IOR. It does not specify its principles in accordance with the naval strategy that tends to be indo-centric and focuses only on the military dimension of Pakistan which articulate and formalize the ideas and elements of a naval warfare so that they are more understandable to a larger community. Whereas the maritime doctrine covers both the economic as well as the military dimensions providing a stable framework within which development and employment of hardware, infrastructure and tactics are to be realized. However, when we are talking about the strategy, its foundation rest in a doctrine. While strategy steers development and employment of forces, a doctrine serves as a landmark in common understanding and translating beliefs into actions.

While in conversation with the contributing writer and drafter of the doctrine, commander Azam Khan stated that the biggest unfortunate event for the threats prevalent in the IOR is that although there are 36 littoral states in the IOR, but none of them have a unified cooperation among all. There exists a massive level grouping between the states that rather than accommodating the challenges, triggers them even further. These groups are divided into four zones that have built up their own disputes among each other. The zone in which Pakistan lies has three other nations, India, Iran, and Oman. He stated that Pakistan has settled all the disputes with Iran and Oman, the only outstanding issue is with India, regarding the sir creek crisis. This lack of central collaboration has become one of the biggest safeguarding reasons as they have arched towards political disputes demanding extra Naval vigilance and monitoring.

The formation of maritime doctrine currently targets the future coming threats from the activation of Gwadar seaport with China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Khan stressed upon the biggest threat as the formation of powerful blocks in two domains, economic as well as political. At one side the US Navy is fully supporting and staffing the Indian Navy and on the other side we have Pakistan Navy collaborating with Chinese Navy (PLAN). Once this trade begins. It is going to magnify the task of Pakistan Navy in terms of trade. It will only include protecting and preserving our own imports and exports, but the Navy would also have to ensure that national sea lines are protected and safeguarded. With the drafting of the maritime doctrine, the role and the character of the Pakistan navy comes out to be a clear vision however khan stressed that Pakistan navy receives on 10 to 11% from the defense budget and with the current ongoing reserves, situation seems to be pretty gloomy as extra care and vigilance will require an update on the naval fleet, resources and infrastructure.

With the rise in CPEC development, nontraditional threats, and the nuclear capability of Indian navy,

“Pakistan faces an erosion of conventional military power along with the nuclear capability” Is what Retd. Commodore Azam Khan Says, one of the contributors to the Maritime Doctrine of Pakistan.

With the change in the meaning of national security, now confronting not only war activities but several dynamics of sea, the national security includes new elements and new domains. The naval performance is focused to enhance in the continuum borders on social and human security on one extreme to the territorial security at the other.

The maritime infrastructure along the coast and in Pakistan’s area of interest is projected to increase in the foreseeable future. The commercial activities and port related infrastructure, a large network of communications and pipelines along the Makran coast, tourism and development and exploration work in Pakistan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) are all expected to expand. Any hostile attempts to hinder the sea line of communication by an adversary can have serious impact on the country’s economy. For this reason, as much as I be difficult for the navy to look and safeguard the activities of CPEC, its development and progressive success has benefits for the build of Pakistan navy. Better economy, better infrastructure leading to better performance of navy.

When the main concentration of any country remains on land, large segments of population become averse to matters of the ocean. In the process, despite historical baggage that we did not invest enough in the Pakistan Navy, one of the principle reasons that we could not give a tough fight to the Indians in the 1971 war to protect East Pakistan, we did not learn any lesson. However, now the focus of the world is shifting to the sea due to the shrinking land resources, populations are growing, and countries are becoming more dependent on sea resources. Khan in his interview stated,

“The flash points are shifting to the sea.”

Indo Pacific region is becoming the major concern. South China Sea and western Indian Ocean are two important places where the world expects the major friction to take place. Leading eventually to an allover war. Navies are being bolstered for asserting dominance in the maritime domain and to serve political ends. Major Powers have started rebalancing their naval forces and co-opting strategic partners to ensure unimpeded control of seas. In this global competition for the dominance of sea, the world is experiencing a rivalry to maintain its status of an eminent naval power for the future. Thus, Pakistan, with the formulation of this doctrine stands very much in the line.


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