Ex-AMAN 2023: Navigating the World of Duplicitous Diplomacy

This month, Pakistan Bahria or the Pakistan Navy, will be hosting Exercise AMAN 2023 – a biennial multi-national gathering of navies from across the globe – which, according to sources, is expected to witness participants from over 100 countries.  This year’s edition will also include the Pakistan International Maritime Expo and Conference (PIMEC) as well as an international fleet review. Themed “Together for Peace and Security”, AMAN 2023 would have surely passed as a significant maritime security cooperation initiative, were it not for the glaringly obvious contradictions that it is laced with.

For a nation that has wreaked havoc with the fragile maritime security environment in the region, and having, for many decades, visited upon its neighbours the monster of terrorism, the play of phrase is quite astonishing in the least.  The dichotomy is unmissable as  Not too long ago, Pakistan was under ‘increased monitoring’ by the FATF to address strategic deficiencies in its regime to counter money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing.  Just this month, the United Nations Security Council’s Sanctions Committee added Abdul Rehman Makki, the Deputy Chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba, to its list of designated terrorists, which unsurprisingly, includes about 150 entities either based in or having links with Pakistan.  Neighbouring Afghanistan is also bearing the brunt of Pakistan-based terrorist groups. As is Pakistan itself.  But, because Pakistan’s anti-terrorism strategy is linked to its geostrategic and regional interests, especially in dealing with its eastern and western neighbours, its response towards them shifts depending on the goal that it wishes to achieve. 

Accordingly, on one hand, the State has consistently turned a blind eye and has frequently encouraged, groups like the Taliban, Al Qaeda, LeT and JeM; on the other, it seeks to suppress the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan within its territory.

Representational image

The same is the case with smuggling.  Over decades, Pakistan-backed organised crime syndicates spread across Asia, Africa, and Europe have created a sophisticated network of drug businesses across continents, which meet the world’s rising demand for heroin and derivatives like methamphetamine. Recently, a French warship intercepted a Pakistani drug boat in the northern Arabian Sea from which 4 tonnes of hashish and 500 kg of heroin were recovered.  A report published by Islam Khabar points out how political instability has only prolonged the drug trafficking in the country and exposes the nexus between the drug lords operating in Pakistan and the politicians, and between the drug lords and the army.  Under pressure from the European Union, which had accorded the GSP+ status to the country in 2014, Pakistan needs to be seen as having taken substantial steps to prevent drug trafficking.

Also Read, International Aid To Pakistan: Flood Relief or Terror-Sponsoring Fund?

The Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) is a special incentive offered by the EU to vulnerable low- and lower-middle-income countries. The GSP+ label slashes tariffs to 0% provided that Pakistan implements 27 international conventions related to labour and human rights, environmental and climate protection, and good governance.  Since the EU is Pakistan’s largest trade partner, absorbing a third of its imports, it is understandable that the country makes every endeavour to showcase its efforts in combatting maritime security threats, among other measures.

It is laughable, and at the same time saddening, that a country which has consciously and consistently fomented instability in its neighbourhood seeks to bring together nations, ostensibly for “peace and security”.  The recent outburst of Pakistan’s foreign minister at the United Nations is instructive of the country’s longstanding misguided foreign policy.   In an interview with the Chinese newspaper Global Times last month, the Pakistan Navy Chief sang paeans about Chinese military hardware while laying stress upon the deepening Navy-to-Navy relations between the two countries.  Yet, any discerning observer would likely be intrigued by the nature of relations between a country that glorifies Osama bin Laden as a martyr, and shelters terrorists like Lakhvi, Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar, Sajid Mir and Dawood Ibrahim, and one which has not only persistently chipped away at the edifice of the international rules-based order but has threatened and bullied its neighbours in its voracious pursuit of dominance. 

Also Read, Taliban: Pakistan’s Frankenstein Monster

Admittedly, the Pakistan Navy must do what is best for the survival of its Deep State.  Growing international scrutiny of the funds that the country receives in assistance, as well as of the parallel economy which is sustained by unscrupulous means and which propagates international criminal networks, has placed Pakistan in an unenviable corner from which it must contrive an escape route. 

Military diplomacy, it appears, is its refuge of choice.  And although the international community, until now, has been restrained and reluctant to call out its double-speak and dubious actions, Pakistan must realise, sooner than later, that it cannot afford to test the limits of this restraint any longer.  It must, therefore, act in earnest to correct its ways.  The eighth edition of AMAN offers another opportunity to Pakistan.  It could either wear it as a fig leaf, in which case it will be one of many wasted avenues.  Or it could choose to embark on a new era of collaborative maritime security in the region.  The latter, unfortunately, requires a level of commitment and conviction that it appears unwilling to invest in for the moment.



The Editorial Team At DefenceXP Network Consists Of Professional Writers, Defence Enthusiast And Defence Aspirants.

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