Pakistan Navy ships ushering into diplomatic engagements in Africa

Ubaid Ahmed

The postmodern world holds navies as an effective instrument of foreign policy initiatives cum objectives; thus influencing country’s foreign relations. The navies are instrumental in shaping the relationships by overseas deployments, extending training facilities, providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and by holding bilateral and multilateral naval exercises, eventually strengthening friendly ties with an aim to open new vistas in their future collaborations. Pakistan firmly believes in promoting peace, security and stability in the region and has always remained committed to international community for maintaining stability and order. Pakistan Navy being custodian of the maritime frontiers has always been in the forefronts to maintain conducive maritime environment. 

The wide range of peacetime naval activities whose purpose is to influence the behaviour of another nation under the patronage of the foreign policy objectives is termed as naval diplomacy and Navy being its important instrument has gained importance primarily because of its main goal to prevent the war.

Therefore, the navies offer a wide range of diplomatic instruments for use in peace time. For instance Pakistan Navy Ships namely PNS MOAWIN and PNS ASLAT recent overseas deployment to Africa indubitably has opened new era of cooperation and goodwill among Pakistan and the African nations. Pakistan Navy Ships recently visited Tanzania, which has a large Pakistani-descent population and is the largest and most populous country in East Africa along the Indian Ocean. Therefore, there exists a genuine need to expand trade, cultural, educational, economic and diplomatic ties with this country.

Moreover, Pakistan Navy footprints in Tanzania and particularly in East Africa holds much significance also for it is the fastest growing region in the resource-rich continent with India having long-standing relationship with the region and an enterprising and successful diaspora living there for over a century. India also has adopted an expansive maritime strategy in recent years, driven by great power ambitions and by strategic rivalry with China which continues to expand its maritime capabilities and act unilaterally in the Indian Ocean region (IOR). Indian Navy has placed particular emphasis on securing key maritime ‘chokepoints’ at the entrances to the Indian Ocean around Africa (including the Mozambique Chan-nel), the Arabian Peninsula (including the Strait of Hormuz and Bab-el-Mandeb) and the straits connecting the Indian and Pacific Oceans through the Indonesian archipelago (the Malacca, Sunda, and Lombok straits). Thus in this milieu it was imperative for Pakistan to have its ties improved and enhanced with the African nations.

Historically, Pakistan has enjoyed cordial relations with Tanzania. Pakistan was maintaining a resident Mission in Dar Es Salaam since 1967. However, the Mission was closed due to financial constraints in 2000 and our Mission in Kenya was assigned concurrent accreditation. However, it was re-opened in 2009 and downgraded to a one man Mission in 2014. The two countries have cordial relations, but lack substantial partnership and linkages. No ministerial level visit to and from Pakistan has taken place in the last 10 years (with the exception of the Tanzanian Defence Minister’s visit to participate in IDEAS-2014). So the recent port call to port Dar Es Salam by Pakistan Navy Ships will help bridging the diplomatic and strategic voids which existed for many years. The navy ships as a good will gesture also established free medical camp there to sow the seeds of fraternity, brotherhood and mutual cooperation. The camp provided medical treatment and medicines to local patients. Some patients were also treated onboard PNS MOAWIN, which is fitted with state of art medical facilities. The establishment of Medial Camp was widely appreciated and generated tremendous goodwill amongst local populace.

Prior visiting port Dar Es Salam in Tanzania, Pakistan Navy Ships were in Cape Town, South Africa, which is rich in natural and mineral resources and is called world’s storehouse of strategic raw materials. Both Pakistan and South Africa are enjoying friction less political relations.

However, there is a need to institute regular engagement at various levels including holding of bilateral Joint Commissions, increased bilateral trade and enhanced naval collaboration. The recent port calls by Pakistan Navy Ships, PNS MOAWIN and PNS ASLAT to African Nations has underscored and highlighted the untapped potential for further strengthening and promoting Pakistan’s relations with African countries especially in the field of trade and commerce. Moreover, the Pakistan Navy Ships whilst enroute port called to Morocco, Mauritania, Ghana, and Nigeria. Pakistan Navy Ships displayed commitment and desire on expanding the existing relations. During all these visits awareness on Pakistan’s sacrifices in fight against terrorism and Pakistan Navy’s role in ensuring maritime security and safety of global commons in being amicably conveyed. Furthermore, during their voyage both ships PNS MOAWIN and PNS ASLAT also highlighted the deteriorating situation in Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK) and the human rights violations being perpetrated by Indian armed forces against innocent people of IoK. 

There is a great potential for further promoting Pakistan-Africa ties in all fields with the help of more people to people contacts, organizing seminars on trade promotion and Pakistani exhibitions. This would facilitate in identification of areas where mutual trade and investment are feasible. To conclude the years to come will require increased movement of trade, capital and human resources from both Pakistan to Tanzania alongside other African nations and vice versa. The flow of human capital and trade has laid the foundation for a relationship which continues to have a great scope for growth in the times to come.