On Friday last week, at the Pakistan Navy Dockyard in Karachi, the seventh edition of the multinational maritime exercise Aman-2021 officially opened with a flag-hoisting ceremony in which flags from 45 participating countries were simultaneously hoisted.
Navies from 45 countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, Turkey, and other Arab and African countries are participating in the week-long 'Aman-21' exercise. Notably, since 2007, the exercise has taken place every two years.
In the sense of military tensions between China and the US in regions such as the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, it is unusual for the Chinese and US navies to engage in multilateral exercises. Moreover, it is also a rare opportunity for Russia to join NATO countries in an exercise.
What is Pakistan's intention behind this exercise?
Admiral M Amjad Khan Niazi, Pakistan's navy chief, told Chinese state media, the Global Times just ahead of the exercise that the presence of the PLAN in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) was necessary for the maritime area in order to preserve the regional balance of power.
Niazi contested that the IOR was being destabilized by New Delhi and that the rising relationship between the Chinese and Pakistani navies will play an increasingly important role in the IOR's peacekeeping.
The exercise is just another addition to the regional Maritime Security Patrols (RMSP) that Pakistan is conducting to position its naval assets in the IOR. These developments clearly show Pakistan's intention for a bigger role in the IOR that fits into the larger strategic objective for 'operationalizing' the CPEC.
India has emerged as the first port of call and a trustworthy partner for coastal navies in the IOR to address their needs for maritime defence. The belief was reflected in the statement of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh where he argued, "Our defence cooperation has grown and today we have unprecedented access to high technology, capital, and partnerships. We have also sought to assume our responsibility for stability in the Indian Ocean Region. We are well-positioned, therefore, to become a net provider of security in our immediate region and beyond." Aman-2021 Maritime exercise is claimed to have been aimed at balancing India's position in IOR.