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The current era is defined by geo-economics driving geo-politics. It has become imperative need for countries, especially the developing ones, to prioritize geo-economics which could then translate itself as consequential weight in International geopolitics.

In case of Pakistan, the geo-economic success is underpinned by CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) and the connectivity that it is projected to provide within and at regional level as well as beyond.

In this backdrop, the Initiative of Maritime Security Workshop (MARSEW) by Pakistan Navy holds immense relevance. Raising levels of understanding amongst country’s intelligentsia on key facets of maritime security, blue economy, the untapped maritime potential, developing geopolitics in the Indian Ocean besides the role of Pakistan Navy in peace and war constitute the core agenda of this workshop.

It is also intended to disseminate knowledge on maritime issues and thus reduce the affliction of maritime blindness across segments of society and decision-making bodies in Pakistan. Accordingly, MARSEW brings together policymakers, academia, media as well as business community to sensitize them to the indispensability of maritime sector and maritime security for greater good of national security. This in turn aims to beget effective maritime policy and national decisions.

MARSEW-6 is scheduled to be held in December 2023.

The nine-day workshop is divided into two phases. The on-campus phase will involve academic activities wherein distinguished subject matter experts, scholars, and other speakers will lead discussions on various topics relevant to maritime sector and maritime security. The second phase will be a field trip to key naval commands and coastal facilities including Naval Headquarter, Sir Creek, Gwadar and Karachi port, in addition to Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works.

Being a quintessential littoral state of Indian Ocean, for long Pakistan Navy has endeavoured to underscore the inalienable nexus between country’s national security and maritime security. That this has an ultimate bearing on the country’s economy cannot be overemphasised.

Bestowed with over 1000 km coastline, over 240.000 sq. km Exclusive Economic Zone along with 50,000 sq. km additional area of continental shelf, Pakistan’s trade is almost exclusively sea-based. Practically 100 percent of oil supplies and over 90 percent of country’s trade transits via maritime highways. This makes sea the most important medium for national commerce and commercial activities.

The geopolitical power shift from the Atlantic to Asia-Pacific in 2012 prompted regional and extra-regional actors to scramble for power in the Indian Ocean region. The shift has signified that future course of foreign policy of major states will be ocean centric.

As later events proved, the power tussle in the Indian Ocean is marked by US-China and India-China competition. In a wider context, however, despite bloc politics gaining ascendancy, we see a tinge of cooperation in the Indian Ocean as well, though insignificant.

China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key project of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is a watershed for Pakistan’s blue growth. This is a geo-economic endeavour that has given prominence to maritime sector. By shifting the commercial activities to Gwadar-Kashgar route instead of long circuitous sea route traversing Malacca, the US-India nexus has been goo-politically outmanoeuvred.

The rationale for this connectivity project is to boost economy of Pakistan while simultaneously furthering regional integration of both China and Pakistan. PN is steadfast in providing security and protection to this important enterprise. A suitably armed, equipped and trained dedicated task force provides 24/7 protection to maritime component of CPEC. This includes guarding approaches from seaward side as well.

Pakistan’s geo-strategic location endows it with abundant opportunities to utilize its untapped blue economy potential. By harnessing hitherto unexploited potential and investment in offshore energy, shipping, fisheries, ship breaking and shipbuilding. Pakistan can provide tremendous stimulus to its mainstream economy over a period of time.

In addition, it can generate enormous employment opportunities. Pakistan’s shipbreaking potential stands at dollar 3 billion; however, its utilization remains a meagre dollar 100 million. Exploitation of overall blue economy potential of Pakistan is only 37 percent far less compared to neighbouring countries.

And these are just two segments that remain underexploited. It is imperative for Pakistan to fulfil the existing policy gaps in the maritime sector. This in turn is crucial for averting a negative impact on national security and efforts to put the country on path of prosperity.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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Hujjathullah M.H.Babu Sahib Nov 19, 2023 07:15pm
MARSEW 2023 appears to have covered most key angles. Pakistan is right not to be engrossed in geo-economics but to more importantly stay abreast of geopolitical developments. While its embrace of land connectivities should move more towards geo-economics its traditional habits of maritime connectivities must wisely be ever subjected to geopolitical moorings and awareness !
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