A week-long multinational naval exercise, hosted by Pakistan, is scheduled to begin on Thursday in the Arabian Sea, a development that could set the stage for its improved bilateral relations with several countries, experts said.
From February 11-16, naval forces from 45 countries, including the United States, China, Russia and Turkey, will be involved in Aman-2021.
For the first time in a decade, Russia would join the military exercise with Nato members, a move considered important. The Brave Monarch 2011 off the coast of Spain was the last time Russian and Nato naval forces engaged in a joint exercise.
The Pakistan Navy, coordinated under the motto “Together for Peace,” claims that the exercise seeks to “promote international cooperation in the fight against piracy, terrorism and other crimes” that pose a danger to maritime security and stability.
“In these circumstances, it is noteworthy to bring together 45 countries, including rivals,” retired Lt. Gen Talat Masood, a security analyst based in Islamabad, told the Anadolu Agency, responding to the escalating political tensions between Washington and Moscow and Beijing.
The biannual exercise also offers an occasion for members of Russia and Nato to participate militarily, he said.
The exercise would also act as a political movement for Islamabad, said Masood, who served from 1951 to 1990 in the Pakistan Army. “Pakistan has shown that its diplomatic clout has been extended to the point where it can bring together countries that are otherwise hostile to one another.”
Munawar Hussain Panhwar, assistant professor at Islamabad’s Quaid-i-Azam International University, said the unusual military touch between Russia and the US is in line with the ‘engagement’ strategy of U.S. President Joe Biden.
The exercise, he said, will also provide a boost to Islamabad’s attempts to strengthen security and military relations with Russia, a long-standing Indian ally.
This might allow Islamabad to further improve its security and military relations with its traditional allies, and to pursue new regional and international partners, at least in the defence sector,’ he told the Anadolu Agency.
Masood said: “It will send a message to India that Pakistan is not an isolated country, but a willing partner with other nations.” referring to the presence of many South and East Asian nations, including Bangladesh.
In recent years, particularly since New Delhi’s abolition of the semi-autonomous status of Indian-occupied Kashmir in August 2019, frosty relations between the two nuclear neighbours have further plummeted.
Islamabad has also accused New Delhi of funding Afghanistan-based militants and sabotaging infrastructure ventures such as the Economic Corridor between China and Pakistan.
The event is an occasion for Islamabad to further consolidate its regional prominence, said Pahnwar, who teaches international affairs. Iran, Afghanistan, China and India are bordered by Pakistan.
Ishtiaq Ahmad, a defence analyst and vice chancellor of Sargodha University in Punjab, said that “Pakistan has contributed to regional peace and stability by bringing together powers with competing interests in the Indian Ocean.”