Pakistan’s strongest weapon is the weapon of sea denial and area access against the Indian Navy. Sea denial weapons should be the focus of Pakistan Navy, as it will make it harder for any fleet to enter Pakistan’s naval redlines.
– Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, addressing the Naval Academy in March 1948
Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah laid the foundation of the Navy, with a will to install it as a formidable force. Pakistan, from its inception, focused heavily on the Army, and then the Air Force, and the third place was for the Navy. Even today, this trend continues. Our naval infrastructure, coastal areas and cities and port cities received very low attention from the leaders; whether it was dictatorships or civilian governments, no strategy existed to develop Pakistan’s coastal area and ports on the model of international and successful ports. No port city or coastal area in the world changed overnight or in years; it needs decades to claim the status of being a successful port, because a permanent focus on these areas can change the fate of these vital areas. Pakistan is blessed with the most vital coastal line in the entire region, and its strategic location needs a very efficient navy – not just a repulsive force, but also a force which is able to warn any aggressor that if they cross Pakistan’s naval redline, they will be punished. Pakistan, as compared to another country and a rival, India, has a small coastal line, and Pakistan can develop this area with a continuous planning and strategy.
Pakistan’s 90% trade is sea borne, and for this, Pakistan also maintains its merchant fleet. Pakistan in 1971 lost its entire merchant fleet, and a huge portion of its naval fleet was lost in naval encounter with India. Pakistan’s Navy also lost two thousand lives in that encounter. Losing a fleet and this amount of destruction alarmed Pakistani naval experts, and they – after this – focused on ports and bases other than Karachi; because the entire Pakistani fleet was present in Karachi, and it was easy for India to impose a blockade and even a planned attack to destroy Pakistan’s naval fleets entirely, leaving Pakistan vulnerable from the coast. And this, till date, remained an option for Indian naval experts. Pakistan Navy’s strategy, to develop other naval bases such as the Jinnah Naval Base in Ormara, and installing coastal radar stations like PNS Ahsan at Ormara, away from the Karachi Naval HQ, give Pakistan’s naval fleet an upper hand in any conflict with India. The Indian naval fleet was traditionally made for Karachi Port blockade, but now there are other naval bases and planned stations of sea denial weapons. All these developments changed the Indian strategy of blockading Karachi; because at Jinnah Naval Base, eight warships and four submarines can sleep in their berths, far away from any blockading force, and can prepare an attack on the invading fleet. But the port at Ormara is still undeveloped. Pakistan must fully develop this port, and keep it in line with the other ports in this direction which are out of Indian access, and divert the main portion of Pakistani merchant fleet away from Karachi. This will help in the development of these undeveloped ports, and will also attract business from the entire region, and the merchant fleet will be away from Indian assault in case of hostility.
The Karachi port is the only trade port of Pakistan, but still, it is not developed and treated, as the international ports are generating billions in trade. Each year, the World Shipping Council issues rankings of the world’s top 50 container ports on the basis of the business they generate. There is no Pakistani port in the top 50. But one Indian port, the Jawaharlal Nehru Port is included, regularly fluctuating among the top 30. According to SEA NEWS Turkey’s ranking of the world’s top 100 container ports, Karachi stood at 87. With such a vital coastal line, we have no fully developed port till date. Karachi is still the only port of Pakistan to bear the burden of the entire trade, and is not fully developed to generate a business, that can fuel the national economy.
Pakistan’s Naval Headquarter is located in Karachi. Karachi is an important strategic port and naval base of Pakistan. Karachi’s naval base and port have many islands, these islands are natural unsinkable aircraft carriers for Pakistan Navy; if developed completely like an USAC, this structure can dismantle any move to impose a blockade on Pakistan SLOCs. Pakistan Navy needs to employ the concept of unsinkable aircraft carrier, in small islands, and further develop these islands to serve as unsinkable aircraft carriers. It will serve two functions – one, the presence of such bases away from shores and in the middle of the sea will pose a major threat to any hostile moving vessel in the sea, and on the other hand, it will safeguard Pakistan’s vital sea lanes far away from its shores. The concept of unsinkable aircraft carrier is not new and is implemented by the USA in Guam, from where it can keep a check on any threat to its interests in the region.
Pakistan also has other coastal areas like Ormara where it can implement this concept of unsinkable aircraft carrier. Modern day Ormara is a small town with a strong presence of Pakistan Navy; Jinnah Naval Base and PNS Ahsan. Ormara has been chosen for Jinnah Naval Base as an alternative in case Karachi Port comes under siege due to its strategic location. The distinguishing feature of Ormara is the presence of a plateau which cuts into the Arabian Sea to form a 1,575 feet high peninsula. This feature of Ormara makes it a suitable place for the implementation of such a concept. Ormara has a port which is still undeveloped and needs focus, because if developed fully, it will serve as an active port of the country; located in a very important area, it serves Pakistan’s merchant fleet with calm, away from any threat. Further deep, we have Pasni, which is also not a developed port but has an active naval base PNS Makran; it is a naval air station. It is one of the two active Naval Air Arm’s bases (the other one being PNS Mehran). Gwadar is located in a strategic location, being the world’s largest deep seaport, and is under Chinese supervision, and is under development from September 2013. The Chinese naval presence will be vital for Pakistan. This port is selected by China for development because it is their shortest route to the Arabian Sea. Jiwani port is located along the Gulf of Oman, 80 km east of Gwadar, and is a vital port for Pakistan; it is believed that it will get a boost in concert with Gwadar development.
Pakistan’s coastline is connected through Makran Coastal Highway, and needs further development. These developments will not only boost Pakistan economically, but will also provide the basis for Pakistan’s naval modernization.
There is another vital force which is developed and can defend Pakistan’s coast and its ports from any aggressor, and that is our vibrant submarine fleet, Pakistan Navy is the only navy in the Indian Ocean region to have AIP – submarines Air Independent Propulsion. Submarines are an aggressive command of Pakistan Navy, with their primary mission including the commencing of peaceful engagement, surveillance and intelligence management, special operations, precision strikes, battle group operations and the control of Pakistan’s border seas. The submarine command also takes responsibility to protect the country’s sea lanes of communication as well as to protect the economic interests, foreign trade and development of the country. Pakistan must also focus on expanding its submarine fleet, rather than thinking about leasing a nuclear submarine, because Pakistani submarine force is more powerful than India’s, is capable of blowing the Indian fleet from the depth.
All these efforts will boost Pakistan’s strategy of sea denial; Pakistan’s strongest weapon is the weapon of sea denial and area access against the Indian Navy. Sea denial weapons should be the focus of Pakistan Navy, as it will make it harder for any fleet to enter Pakistan’s naval redlines. The heart of this strategy must be Karachi, the first pearl in Pakistan’s string of pearls should be Karachi, and then other islands and structures like Ormara hammerhead should be equipped with state-of-the-art sea denial weapons, so that no Indian vessel might try to engage with a Pakistani vessel.
It will warn Indian naval experts that movement towards attacking the Pakistani fleet will reduce the Indian fleet in size and capability. All these advancements must be followed by further expansions like aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines; but not devising and implementing sea denial strategy, not diverting our merchant fleet away from Karachi, ignoring the potential of unsinkable aircraft carriers, and ignoring the developments of these ports will make both the Pakistani fleets vulnerable for decades.
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