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It is ascertained during the peace time and the state of readiness throughout that time, whether a state will prevail or succumb when put to trial. An efficient and prepared force uses peace time to augment its defense by conceiving strategies, participating in various exercises to promote regional and global peace along with the upgradation of its hardware and equipment. According to Sun Tzu, a Chinese military strategist, it is important to not rely on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on one’s own readiness to receive him, not on the chance of his attacking or not but rather on the fact that one has made their position unassailable. Such invincibility is only possible if a state is diligently working to buttress its defense during peace time. Nevertheless, the Armed Forces of Pakistan are assiduously working to ensure operational preparedness and battle readiness by participating in various international joint exercises. Pakistan Navy in this regard has been conducting as well as participating in several such ventures to demonstrate resolve and determination. The latest example of its kind is the naval exercise ‘Mavi Balina’ conducted by Turkey.

Exercise Mavi Balina or the exercise Blue Whale is an international anti-submarine warfare exercise led by the Turkish Naval Forces. It is considered to be the largest anti-submarine warfare exercise, held biennially, in the Mediterranean region, hosted by Turkish Naval Force Fleet Command. The main headquarters of the exercise is at Aksaz Naval Base and aimed to provide realistic operational training in submarine and surface warfare for the units and the staff of the participating states along with the promotion of friendship as well as mutual cooperation and understanding. The participant countries include Pakistan, Bulgaria, Italy, the U.S. Spain, Romania and Turkey. In addition to the naval assets of the other participant countries, Pakistan’s PNS Zulfiqar (F-22P Zulfiqar-class guided missile frigate) has participated in the exercise.

Pakistan and Turkey enjoy close strategic ties which have strengthened over the recent years through strong diplomatic and military collaboration. The bilateral defence and security cooperation between the two states has increased since 2018 defence deals which resulted in Turkey being the second biggest arms supplier to Pakistan, after China. For instance, the Pakistan Navy in October 2018 commissioned a 17,000 tonne fleet tanker which was built in collaboration with Turkish defence company STM in the southern port city of Karachi. Furthermore, the military-to-military relationship is exemplified by the armed forces training exchange programme, which was inaugurated in 2000. Also, Turkey is upgrading three Pakistani submarines.

The Mavi Balina exercise is fast evolving into an important regional forum to promote Collaborative Maritime Security and interoperability. The presence of a number of major navies from important countries is indicative of the fact that Mavi Balina is developing into a collective forum to share, discuss and propose solutions for Collaborative Maritime Security Structure. This year’s exercise was conducted in three phases, i.e harbour, sea and analysis phase under stringent COVID-19 protocols.

Currently, Pakistan Navy is at par with the contemporary trends of the naval warfare and is equipped to challenge both the conventional and non-conventional threats with the primary objective to defend the maritime boundaries of the country. Pakistan Navy has time and again proven its professionalism and acumen by commanding CTF 150 & 151 many times along with being a respectable and capable partner of international maritime force. Moreover, Pakistan Navy is completely aware of its strategic responsibility in the region and beyond, and is conversant with the evolving geo-political and geo-strategic scenario. Subsequently, in congruence with the changing global environment, Pakistan Navy is making considerable headway by make the most of Pakistan’s relation with the Turkey by participating in ventures like that of the Mavi Balina naval exercise.

Zubeda Anjum Niazi

Zubeda Anjum Niazi can be contacted at [email protected]