Maritime Security Challenges for Pakistan

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Pakistan’s position in the maritime realm has grown in importance in light of the ongoing developments in the seas under China’s worldwide project of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR). A new economic architecture for the region and the world will emerge as a result of the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) – Port of Gwadar project. The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) is a network of ports connecting Asia, Europe, and Africa to foster global and regional integration through trade, economics, intercultural interactions, and research and development. Viewing Pakistan’s crucial role in the MSR, which is rooted in dynamics of harmony and cooperation towards both participating states and others, gains a stronger clarity. However, it is imperative to understand that Pakistan’s success in the marine sector is largely due to its response to less common maritime security concerns.

In light of this, modern maritime development not only supports infrastructure and commerce but also nurtures regional harmony and collaboration. The concept of an international society is evolved by regime theory within the theoretical framework of international relations (Buzan, 1993) based on a foundation of choices, incentives, power distribution, and critical roles; this can be seen in Pakistan’s aspirations for further integration. The Port of Gwadar will not only offer up new international markets for business ventures and industrial bases, but it will also play a significant role in Pakistan’s domestic development and economic progress. To make things plain, since piracy in the seas has always been a problem, the relationship between maritime security and international crimes is not a new phenomenon. However, post-9/11 terrorism has many different aspects, and one that has generated a lot of discussion and conjecture is in the maritime sector. Transnational criminal activity on the high seas is any threat to activities that take place there, including maritime terrorism, piracy, trafficking in people, narcotics, and weapons, illegal fishing, and cybercrime.

From here, it can be argued that improving marine security governance is necessary for the success of the Port of Gwadar and the MSR as a whole. Although the phenomenon of maritime security has roots in international relations and security studies, there is still no one description for it. Its significance has increased since the end of the Cold War as it has moved outside the traditional security paradigm, where it was long seen to be defending maritime boundaries and essential sea-embedded resources. Since international trade and the sustainability of the global economy depend on open sea lanes, non-traditional security concerns like transnational crimes in the seas are a serious worry for maritime security today.

Port of Gwadar’s strategic position in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean defines its rising significance. According to Dr. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi (2013) Director General of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), the Arabian Sea makes this region an indispensable economic artery and maritime corridor for world security and stability. Further significance of Arabian Sea’s relationship with energy shipments is explained by Vice Admiral (R) Irfan Ahmed (2015) of Pakistan Navy that around 17 Million barrel Oil passes through Strait of Hormuz daily, around 3.5 Million through Bab al Mandeb, approximately 15 Million barrel oil passes towards Far East routes. Arabian Sea’s lanes are the life lines for many states as their energy shipments and other commodities pass through. And Port of Gwadar in connection would require an effective mechanism of maritime security governance for safe and secure sea operations.

By involving authorities who are an essential component of a formal framework of the national policy, a mechanism for regulating activities that take place at sea is included in maritime security governance. However, to address non-traditional maritime security concerns, internal security mechanisms and regional nations must work together extensively. This is because of today’s transnational demands. This is due to the complicated interaction between maritime security and transnational crimes. These international problems pose a threat in the form of potential attacks on ports and seagoing vessels, which might trigger a financial collapse and escalate maritime warfare.

Pakistan must take prior initiatives for preventing such events and therefore, strengthening maritime security governance remains vital. Evidence was measured through current literature and also by assessing perspectives of Pakistan’s former Naval Chiefs towards the challenges in the seas and how possibly Port of Gwadar may be affected. It was also analyzed through international relations theoretical frameworks; regionalism, critical security studies approach and constructivism that why strengthening Maritime Security Governance remains significant. Strengthening Maritime Security Governance remains significant for both onshore and offshore maritime activities. Onshore activities are related to the physical infrastructure of the port and its surroundings and offshore relates to all activities in the waters. Collective security measures remain core to both onshore and offshore maritime activities, as the first requires integration between domestic agencies and the latter between member states of the MSR.

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