The National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA), Islamabad, organised a two-day International Maritime Symposium (IMS) on the topic “Geo-economic Dimensions of Indian Ocean Region (IOR) – Opportunities for Region and Beyond” on 20 and 21 December 2022. Experts from home and abroad presented their views about the geo-economic importance of IOR.
The second-day proceeding focused on maritime security in the context of regional connectivity. Air Marshal Zahid Mahmood, vice chief of Air Staff, was the chief guest. At the same time, Vice Admiral Abdul Aleem (Retd) moderated the session discussion. Vice Admiral (Retd) Iftikhar Rao spoke about the Maritime Threats & Challenges from Regional Perspective. He talked about the Malacca strait choke point and its importance to the world, especially China. He also emphasised that Gwadar is a commercial port, and its security is vital for economic dividends.
Dr Christian Beuger of the University of Copenhagen talked about the Security of Sealines of Communications (SLOCs) and emphasised collaborative strategy in IOR to meet the non-conventional threats, particularly to SLOCs. He opined that Pakistan’s position is to take the lead in this regard. While delivering a talk, Prof. Dr Azhar Ahmed of Bahria University believed that Geo-Economics is an instrument to achieve the objectives of Geo-Politics. He underscored that without political stability, no country could progress.
Air Marshal Zahid Mahmood highlighted the importance of maritime security and its linkage with national security. He emphasised the need to develop operational strategies to meet naval security threats. Dr Hassan Daud Butt of Bahria University spoke about the need for regional connectivity on land and over the sea.
While deliberating on the current global security scenario, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, keynote speaker, opined that it was the most dangerous decade after World War II. The world is witnessing historical changes; economic and international powers are emerging from the East. He believed the next war was expected to be at sea and not on land. Therefore, Pakistan needs to ensure foolproof maritime security.
The message of the Prime Minister of Pakistan was also read during the session. While emphasising the Maritime Security of Pakistan, PM opined that Pakistan is heavily dependent on its sea lines of communications because over 90% of Pakistan’s trade and almost 100% of energy imports are through the sea. Therefore, any disruption in maritime trade has serious repercussions for national security. The government is well aware of this imperative and is providing all-out support to the maritime security apparatus, especially Pakistan Navy.
Vice Admiral Faisal Rasool Lodhi, Vice Chief of the Naval Staff, was the chief guest of the closing session. He emphasised that effective security is essential to protect the expanding maritime economic activities in Pakistan, the region and beyond. Pakistan, therefore, needs proactive diplomacy, well-considered economic policies and risk management as important ingredients to harness and sustain the pace of development and potential growth.
Maritime professionals well attended the symposium as security experts, academia, think tanks and media personnel.