- Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies

President China Institute of Strategic Studies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good Morning!
It is a matter of immense pleasure for me to share my thoughts with this
august gathering. I am thankful to President China Institute of Strategic Studies
for inviting me to this forum and affording me the opportunity to speak on ‘Maritime
Security in Indian Ocean - Prospects for PN - PLA(N) Collaboration’. I do hope the
discussion following my talk will be candid and mutually beneficial. The broad
areas I am going to touch upon are as flashed:
Significance of Seas and Sea Power
Importance of Indian Ocean
Threats and Challenges in Indian Ocean
Indian Naval Developments and its Implications
Pakistan’s Contributions towards Maritime Security
Prospects of PN - PLA(N) Collaboration
Let me begin by sharing my perspective on significance of seas and sea
power in the contemporary environment. 90% of world’s commerce ply through
sea1 and more than 60% of world’s major urban centers are located within 100
kms of the coast. Oceans offer infinite opportunities. The oceans contain bulk of
oil, gas, minerals and rare metal reserves. Since oceans link countries far and
wide and provide easy access, mankind has used the sea for commerce and trade
for more than 3,000 years.
Throughout history, sea routes have been more
Center Stage for the Twenty-First Century: Power Plays in the Indian Ocean by Robert D. Kaplan.
important and cheaper than land. This holds good even in the modern age as
transportation of freight by sea is approximately 10 times cheaper than rail, 45
times cheaper than road and 163 times cheaper than air. This is why 90% of
intercontinental trade is sea-borne and is served by over 4000 major ports and
approximately 38000 plus commercial ships.
Battles have been fought at sea to protect and deny sea borne trade as well
as to project military power ashore, which had a significant impact on geo-politics
and shaped the world as we see it today.
Nations that controlled oceans
dominated world’s geo-politics. Almost all great powers in the history had also
been great maritime powers. In recent conflicts such as Korean, Vietnam, Gulf
and Kosovo Wars, sea power remained an enabling factor in the outcome of these
wars. During the 1982 Falklands War, Royal Navy managed to reclaim the islands
through its superior naval power. Sea power has also played a major role in the
wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. These campaigns were far from entirely land-based
affairs. Coalition navies were heavily involved in projecting ground and air power
into the theatre. Western naval forces have also played an active role in Libyan
campaign in 2011 as well as in operations against Islamic State in Iraq.
Rising nations are also building up naval forces to assert territorial claims
and boost national prestige. Similarly, small coastal countries are increasingly
investing in their navies to protect and preserve offshore resources as well as their
maritime trade.
Having discussed the importance of sea power and its influence upon geo-
political history, I now move on to the Indian Ocean, which is today perhaps one of
the most discussed regions amongst the global maritime community.
Ocean is home to world’s most important choke points and Sea Lines of
Communication (SLOCs).
Control and security of these SLOCs has assumed
prominence as these are arteries of global commerce through which flows the life
blood of maritime commerce and trade. More than 100,000 ships transit through
this ocean annually2. About half of the world’s trade by value and one third of its
oil consumption pass through this ocean. Strait of Hormuz stands out as the most
important choke point from where over 17 million barrels of crude oil and large
quantity of Liquefied Natural Gas is shipped every day. Nearly 17,500 tankers and
7,300 cargo ships pass through the Gulf each year. The current dependence of
industrialized world on Gulf oil is as shown:
Hence the energy security has emerged as a vital interest for world’s
leading economies, both regional and extra regional and is focused mainly to
North West Indian Ocean region.
On the other hand, post 9/11 events have
brought about a paradigm shift in the global security calculus and reshaped the
21st century’s threat canvas. Unlike the past, nations are confronted with issues
such as transnational terrorism, insurgencies and organized asymmetric crimes
emanating from Non State Actors, which have no defined boundaries or
These new security challenges have reshaped the maritime
environment and forced navies to re-strategize their roles and force structures.
After having talked about the significance of Indian Ocean, it is important to
discuss some of the significant threats and challenges to regional maritime
security in the Indian Ocean.
After 9/11, there has been a mounting international concern related to the
possibility of terrorists using relatively unguarded and vulnerable sea routes and
Address by Vice President of India at IONS Seminar 2008 held at New Delhi on 15 Feb 2008.
ports to undertake acts of Maritime Terrorism. Although the world's oceans so far
have not been a major focus of terrorist activities, maritime domain is by design
conducive to these types of threats. The attacks on USS COLE in 2000 and the
French tanker LIMBURG in 2002, both off Yemen, the suicide attack on Iraqi oil
platforms in April 2004 and attack on MV STAR in 2010 off the Straits of Hormuz
clearly demonstrate that the threat of terrorism at sea is a reality. Terrorists enjoy
two advantages i.e. asymmetric means and time of their choosing. Therefore,
effective and considerable efforts are required to counter this threat. While naval
or maritime combat capability of terrorists is not clearly apparent, the threat cannot
be ruled out or given lower priority. The trans-national terrorists inspired by Al
Qaeda can use ‘maritime highways’ for their logistics i.e. movement of personnel,
weapons and finances from within regional states and Afghanistan with relative
impunity, if not properly monitored. This threat is speculated to become more
significant in the context of US/ ISAF withdrawal and existing weak security
apparatus in the war-torn Afghanistan. We now know that LTTE, the Sri Lankan
rebels made use of sea to transport arms & ammunitions to be used during their
An important adjunct to maritime terrorism is drugs and arms trafficking.
With huge profit margins, drugs and arms trafficking is by far the most lucrative
means of generating funds which may be used to finance terror networks and
arms trafficking. Gun running by sea is also the safest means for transferring
arms and ammunition worldwide.
Human smuggling in the region is also on the rise despite concerted efforts
by all concerned. People from poor countries try to illegally enter richer states in
search of better employment and economic opportunities through sea routes. A
number of such ill-fated souls die due to drowning or suffocation while being
transported through inhumane ways.
Piracy at the sea is known to mankind since long time. Historically, it was
limited to hit & run style actions. Pirates used to steal cargo or fittings and
runaway. In early 2000s, piracy off Somalia emerged as a new trend. Pirates
started hijacking ships far off from shore; made crew hostages and started
demanding heavy ransom. First time Super Tanker Sirus Star was hijacked 450
miles off the coast. It is learnt that US $13.5 Million were paid for release of Greek
vessel MV Irene SL. Seeing enormity of threat IMB issued warning that ships
passing through area 67°E, 22°N and 22°S faced risk of being hijacked. One
research showed that ransom money collected was distributed to many
beneficiaries in and out of Somalia.
Payment Distribution3
Ransom Payment
Financial $900,000
Supplies Logistic Officer
First to board MV Victoria
$150,000 (plus Land Cruiser bonus)
Eight Others
$41,000 each
Head Chef
20 men
$12,000 each
Cutting off Financial Trail
Out of US $238 Million ransom paid to Somali pirates in 2010,
approx 40% i.e. US $95 Million went to beneficiaries outside Somalia.
Skeptics of piracy situation rightly ask who benefits from piracy?
Insurance companies
“On the Economics of International Sea Piracy – A Case of History Repeating Itself” by Barry
Dubner & Ritvik Ratori Michigan State Intl Law Review
Security Agencies
I think the international community deserves credit not only for getting
together but also sustaining efforts continuously. Here I would like to mention the
significant contribution being made by PLA(Navy). It is now well recognized that
the fundamental causes of the Somali piracy lie ashore.
The discussion leads us to the conclusion that the Sea Lines of
Communications passing through Indian Ocean are highly vulnerable, due to
prevailing asymmetric threat and vastness of the area.
This is particularly
advantageous for terrorists who can use relatively unmonitored areas for their
nefarious or illicit activities. The situation is further exacerbated because of the
presence of a large number of unregulated and unregistered small fishing boats
operating from villages all along the coast. The resources required for monitoring
and policing of this Area of Operations (AOO) are immense.
Historically, Indian Ocean was dominated by Britain in 19th and 20th century.
In the post-World War II era, United States replaced Britain and maintained near
continuous deployments of its 5th Fleet in Indian Ocean to protect its strategic
interests as well as to conduct naval operations in support of Iraq and Afghanistan
wars. US 5th Fleet also undertakes Maritime Security Operations which include
counter-terrorism, counter-trafficking and counter-piracy ops. Post 9/11 scenario
also implicated that no single nation has the capacity to single handedly cope with
the multifarious threats. Thus, the concept of Collaborative Maritime Security
gained pre-eminence which lead to formation of Combined Task Forces 150 and
151. These forces comprise ships of regional as well as extra regional countries
and generally 50 - 60 ships operate in Indian Ocean at any one time.
Another important development in Indian Ocean is the rise and
development of Indian and Chinese naval power and deployment in Indian Ocean,
arguably one of the most important aspects of 21st century maritime security.
Astonishing economic growth of China and the steady rise in India’s trade have
increased their dependence on Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs).
primary concern for China is to secure the extensive Sea Lines of
Communications (SLOCs) that transverse Indian Ocean and western Pacific,
linking the Gulf to China. India, however, considers Indian Ocean its backyard and
is thus developing its naval power to dominate and police Indian Ocean. An Indian
thinker K. M. Panikkar wrote in his thought provoking book ‘India & the Indian
Ocean’ that, ‘Indian Ocean must remain fully Indian and India must rule the waves
of the Indian Ocean’. Some of the analyst have pointed out some redlines, if
crossed, could prompt Indian Naval build up to counter Chinese influence in the
Indian Ocean. India considers following as triggers for Indo-China rivalry in IOR4:
A forward deployment of PLA(Navy) nuclear submarines to the
Indian Ocean.
A militarized Chinese “String of Pearls” or network of Chinese
Naval Stations, spanning the IOR.
A Chinese effort to shut New Dehli out of the South China Sea,
complicating India’s broader look East policy in Southeast Asia.
India envisions its Navy to be the main instrument of Power projection and
a tool to achieve unchallengeable pre-eminence and influence in the region.
Consequently, Indian Navy has embarked on an ambitious development plan to
augment force levels, enhance platform capabilities and transform into a Blue
Water force by next 10 years, capable of influencing the outcome of land battles
and performing constabulary role in the Indian Ocean Region.
During the Cold War period, India opposed presence of extra regional
navies and perceived US’s strategic aim in the region was to monitor and if
Deep Currents & Rising Tides - The Indian Ocean and International Security by J Gorfano and A
Dew p-189
necessary, limit India’s regional military capability and control within the Indian
Ocean. However, after lifting of US sanctions against India in 2001 (imposed as a
reaction to India’s nuclear tests in 1998), bilateral military relations between India
and USA improved. I may also mention that IN ships escorted US commercial
shipping through Straits of Malacca after 9/11 in order to provide protection to US
ships against asymmetric threats.
Regular conduct of Bilateral navy exercise
Malabar resumed in 2002. Agreed minutes on defence cooperation were signed
in 2005.
Indian Maritime Military Strategy issued in 2007 states that:
‘The strategic objectives of a majority of extra-regional navies are broadly
coincident with India's own strategic interests, there is no clash of
overarching interests in the IOR’.
India and USA have made tremendous efforts to expand areas of mutual
benefit and to seek partnerships in order to foster collaboration between two
navies. While India has improved relations with US, India perceives China as a
threat and envisions ‘encirclement’ by China. In August 2009, Admiral Suresh
Mehta, weeks before his retirement discussed India-China competition in IOR. He
noted that there are areas where tension could arise between the two raising
Asian powers. He argued that ‘on the military front, our strategy to deal with China
must include reducing the military gap and countering the growing Chinese
footprint in IOR’5. A former Indian Naval Chief Admiral Arun Prakash implores New
Dehli to acknowledge the Chinese naval threat and take it seriously. He argued
that “it is time for India to shed her blinkers and prepare to counter PLA Navy’s
impending power play in the Indian Ocean”6. India’s strategy to minimise and
control the Chinese influence in the IOR is to reduce the military gap through
‘internal balancing’ and counter Chinese presence through ‘external balancing’
Suresh Mehta, ‘India’s National Security Challenges’, 10 Aug 09,
6 Deep Currents & Rising Tides - The Indian Ocean and International Security by J Gorfano and A
(with the US) combined with maritime diplomacy (with the internal and island
states). I believe that the West, and in particular the US often exaggerate Chinese
military capabilities, intending to stoke fears of a growing Chinese threat”7.
As a counter argument in favour of Chinese naval developments, Professor
Li Lexiong who is one of the most ardent advocate for China’s sea power, provides
following arguments8:
International trade is an important component of the nation’s
National economy depends on SLOCs, which is a maritime lifeline.
Overseas investments and free trade areas are essential.
The protection of maritime rights and interests rely on maritime
Threats to China’s economic security are not confined to the
continent but extend to maritime interests.
China therefore needs to maintain presence in Indian Ocean for protection
of its maritime interests. While pursuing expansion of its naval force, China has
also made substantial progress in supporting the regional countries in
development of maritime infrastructure. China has recently proposed the concept
to build 21st Century Maritime Silk Road which is aimed at linking China with
Europe, Middle East & Central Asia through sea routes. It advocates win-win
results through cooperation with more than 20 countries residing astride maritime
silk route. China plans to provide financial assistance to the countries along
maritime silk route in developments of ports and associated infrastructure.
Chinese President during his address to Parliament of Pakistan on 22 Apr 15
emphasized that ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a focal point of our joint
efforts to achieve common development and we should use this economic corridor
to drive our practical cooperation with focus on Gwadar port, energy, infrastructure
development and industrial cooperation’. It is envisioned that China-Pakistan
Economic Corridor shall link 21st century maritime silk route with Silk Road
Economic Belt, a road link being developed on land to connect China with Europe.
Here, I would like to dwell a little on the significance of Gwadar port. From
strategic point of view, full development of Gwadar port as per its Master Plan will
prove to be a game-changer in the region. It has the potential to act both as the
trans-shipment port of the region as well as the transit port for the land-locked
states of Central Asia and China. Developing a port at Gwadar makes economic
sense for China. Its oil and cargo from the Persian Gulf has to travel 10,000 kms
over sea and 4,600 kms over land to reach Western China, while the GwadarKashghar route shortens this distance to 2500 kms.
India, on the other hand, is endeavouring to check mate Pakistan and
China through developing Port of Chabahar in Iran. MoU was signed in 2003 and
India has made commitment of 100 million US dollars to invest in the development
of the port. India has also invested in development of link road to Afghanistan.
Hence, it is in the interest of both China and Pakistan to get Gwadar port
functional as soon as possible. Announcement of various agreements during visit
of Chinese President to develop hinterland connectivity with Gwadar Port is
manifestation of priority that China and Pakistan accord to this project
Here, I may now like to highlight PN contributions towards maritime security
in Indian Ocean region. Pakistan Navy is a small yet a potent and capable force
having all the components of a modern naval force i.e. surface ships, submarines,
aircraft, helicopters, marines and Special Services Group and is capable of
undertaking combat, constabulary and maritime security operations. Like other
responsible states, Pakistan supports the traditional freedom of navigation on high
seas and would not like to see the international law undermined. Considering
Pakistan’s reliance on sea trade and its compulsion to import its entire POL
requirement through the sea route, the most significant maritime challenge for
Pakistan Navy is to oversee peace and stability, on high seas, in the region.
While fulfilling the national defence requirements, Pakistan Navy is also
providing security to the major waterways through which the world’s oil flows. In
the aftermath of 9/11, security of these waterways became an international
concern. At this juncture, PN took the initiative to play a lead role in support of
international efforts aimed at maintaining maritime order in the region. Being fully
conscious of the emerging maritime situation of the area especially since the start
of this century, Pakistan Navy has all along remained engaged with coalition
maritime forces.
PN was the first Navy of the region to join Operation Enduring Freedom
(CMCP) in 2004 and so far, 53 PN ships with embarked helicopters have
participated in CMCP. These efforts despite resource constraints have been duly
acknowledged and PN has been entrusted with the command of Task Force 150
for seven times since 2004. PN is scheduled to Command TF-150 for the 8th time
from 30 Jul - 3 Dec 15.
I may also mention that PN joined Task Force-151 which was formed on 01
Jan 09 to combat piracy in area off HoA. So far, 22 PN ships have participated in
Counter-Piracy Operations. PN officers have commanded TF-151 for five times
and currently, the command of CTF-151 is held with PN.
Besides participation in CMCP and counter-piracy operations, navy has
also taken other initiatives for collaborative maritime security. In this direction, PN
initiated AMAN series of exercise in 2007 which has become a biennial event. So
far, four exercises have been held and in each of these exercises, over 30 navies
have participated. This we consider is not only an acknowledgment of our efforts
but also manifests the slogan of exercise which calls for being ‘Together for
Apart from Maritime Security Operation, Pakistan Navy also actively
contributes in disaster relief operations both in-country and abroad. Here I would
like to specially highlight the relief operations which were undertaken by Pakistan
Navy when South East Asia and South Asia were hit by the tragic “TSUNAMI” in
2004. PN ships that were on OSD, immediately provided assistance to Maldives.
Later, PN despatched a Task Force to assist Sri Lanka and Indonesia which
conducted sustained relief & rescue operations.
The most notable incident in the recent past in July 2011 was rescuing of
distressed MV SUEZ crew. The ship had been pirated off Somali coast. It carried
Panama’s flag, was owned by an Egyptian company, with crew of Pakistani,
Indian, Egyptian and Sri Lankan origin. After hectic negotiations spearheaded by a
Pakistani Human Rights activist, and payment of ransom by Pakistani
philanthropists, the ship was released by pirates. A PN warship escorted the ship
from Somali coast to Salalah and provided assistance.
Last but not the least, during ongoing Yemen crisis, PN Ships successfully
evacuated 245 civilians from heavily bombarded Aden Port and adjacent areas.
I shall now move over to the final part of my talk i.e., prospects for PN-
PLA(N) collaboration. The time tested, ever growing and tensile bonds between
Pakistan and China derive their depth from geographical proximity, shared
geopolitical interests, shared perceptions on global/ regional security issues and
issues of global concern, and the snowballing and mutually beneficial economic
and military ties spanning well over six decades.
These factors have so
interwoven the interests of the two countries that they are now destined to remain
on the upward curve, belying the diplomatic maxim that friends of today can be
enemies of tomorrow and vice versa. The hallmark of the whole range of relations
between Pakistan and China is that they represent people to people amity
nurtured by love and respect.
In my view, the collaboration between Pakistan Navy and PLA (Navy) is a
bit low; however, it is destined to increase with passage of time.
warships of both the countries regularly visit each other.
At present,
visited QINGDAO, China from 20-25 Apr 14. Moreover, PLA(N) Ship Peace Ark
visited Karachi from 29 Jul to 4 Aug 13 and 02 x ship (CHANG CHUN, CHANG
ZHOU) visited Karachi from 27 Sep to 1 Oct 14.
During ongoing Yemen crisis, PLA (Navy) evacuated 176 Pakistanis from
the Port of Aden whereas PN ship evacuated 8 Chinese students from Mukalla
Port. The said evacuation was especially mentioned by Chinese President during
his speech to Pakistan’s parliament on 22 Apr 15 in which he quoted “The
Pakistani commander gave order that the ship would not leave until all Chinese
students were onboard. His stirring words again show that China-Pakistan
friendship is indeed deeper than the sea”.
Both the navies also support each other in different regional collaborative
maritime security initiatives.
China helped Pakistan to get observer status in
WPNS whereas Pakistan supported China’s observer status in IONS. PN officers
regularly participate in Young Officers Seminar at China.
PN is also availing
professional/ training courses at Chinese institutions. The collaboration can be
further enhanced:
By exchange of observers between PN Ships deployed in CTF150/151 and PLA(N) counter-piracy escort missions.
Conduct of exercises regularly and give wide media coverage.
Enhanced interaction at all levels through frequent seminars/
Academic exchange programs.
Guest speaker lectures by Senior PLA(Navy)/PN Officers at PN War
College and PLA(N) Colleges.
SOF/Marines training and exercises.
I would like to conclude by saying that PN is cognizant of the changing
maritime compulsions and stands ready and committed to promote peace and
stability in the region and maintain a legitimate maritime order in cooperation with
partners. PLA Navy and Pakistan Navy enjoy strong and long lasting friendly
relations and I am confident that these bonds will be further strengthened in years
to come. There exists a scope to further enhance our collaboration in the domain
of maritime security and I am hopeful that it shall further increase with passage of
time. In the end I would like to show you what Napolean said in 1800 “ China is a
sleeping Lion, and when she wakes the world will shake”
I thank you all for patient hearing.