Since 2010, Pakistan Navy has been busy pursuing pirates in the Arabian Sea. The Navy has to play the role of sheriff in accordance with United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and as Goodwill Ambassador to ships which pass through our territorial waters and area of responsibility. As the Navy is guardian of our waters, it has the responsibility and right under international maritime law to stop and search any suspicious vessels for illegal contraband.
Under the Stockholm Declaration, it is the responsibility of the Navy, Maritime Security Agency and Coast Guards to keep the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) pollution free and ensure protection of marine life, especially fisheries both for our national consumption and export. It is with exceptional inter-agency cooperation that we continue to stop illegal trawlers from fishing in our territorial waters. Furthermore, to protect our yet untapped undersea mineral wealth in our EEZ from illegal exploitation we must remain vigilant and see to it that a proper national plan is drafted for their development to ensure a prosperous future. Our naval forces also provide aid to any vessels in distress in our territorial waters and area of responsibility, i.e., search and rescue.
Pakistan Navy, Maritime Security Agency (MSA) and Coast Guards have wide and varied responsibilities to carry out in our coastal area and EEZ. Some of these duties include:
a. Prevention of maritime crime to prevent piracy within our territorial waters and area of responsibility as it has been defined and to maintain our marine environment.
b. Countermeasures against domestic poaching, and safeguarding our diverse marine life for future generations.
c. Operations against criminal activities such as smuggling of contraband and people from other countries into Pakistan or out of Pakistan.
d. Ensuring security at sea, the three tentacles which safeguard our sea; Navy, MSA and Coast Guards are ever vigilant about their duties while at sea which include a very wide variety of responsibilities. i.e., aiding vessels in distress both within our area of responsibility and out as well as search and rescue operations.
e. Presently, there is no danger from the threat of piracy and terrorism within our maritime borders, however, our naval forces are fully prepared to stop any such foolhardy misadventures.
f. Yearly exercises are held at sea to practice our seagoing SOPs and ensure that there is ambiguity on what is to be done.
g. Natural/man-made disasters are an ever-present threat in our open ocean and coastal areas, our naval forces are well-prepared to handle such instances and have developed detailed contingency plans, i.e., National Maritime Disaster Contingency Plan. Furthermore, the SOPs outlined within are practiced yearly in Barracuda Sea Exercises.
India pulled out of IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) pipeline project to maintain close ties with the U.S. Administration, in lieu of civil nuclear projects and as strategic partner in 2009. As it still needed to maintain friendship with Iran and meet its demand for gas, plans were made to join the Iran project to the Oman gas pipeline and pass it underwater close to Pakistan Exclusive Zone border to Gujarat. However, on March 19, 2015 Pakistan was given the award of extending her EEZ by additional 150 nautical miles. This brought the SAGE Project in direct confrontation with Pakistan. India tried to hoodwink the UNCLOS Committee that her project was established before Pakistan received the award. The Committee rejected India’s pleas declaring that only Pakistan could permit the underwater pipeline to pass through her sovereign territory.
India has, on numerous occasions, violated our territorial waters with heavy fishing trawlers carrying explosives and chemicals dangerous to both human and marine life. Pakistan Navy has the task to protect the partnership between China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and EEZ of Pakistan. Both Iran and Oman must realize that they should not be duped by hegemony of India and its insipid propaganda against Pakistan. They can sign either bilateral or trilateral agreements with Pakistan in developing marine life in the Arabian Sea for benefit of all three countries.
Pakistan’s EEZ was established in 1982 after ratification from UNCLOS. The EEZ on surface was divided. Under UNCLOS Article 76, the area from the lower water base line to the deep ocean floor has been subdivided as:
a. Internal Waters.
b. Territorial Waters.
c. Contiguous Zone.
Pakistan applied for maximum extension as per her continental shelf in 2009 and was granted the additional 150 nautical miles. Pakistan’s coastline extending from the border of Iran to India is 1100 km along the Arabian Sea. Pakistan gained 50,000 square km to a total of 290,000 square km. The Arabian Sea has maximum width of 2400 kilometres with the surface area of 3,862,000 square km and maximum depth of 4650 metres. Pakistan’s EEZ doesn’t fall in the high-risk zone of 22 degrees North to 65 degrees East.
Pakistan’s EEZ is 35% larger than combined area of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. Pakistan has no dispute with Iran and Oman with the boundaries of EEZ, but India, having gained the exclusive right to Rann of kutch through the United Nations Tribunal, has been demanding half the waters of Sir Creek which Pakistan has clearly refused. India rejects Pakistan’s stance and sends its fishing trawlers deliberately into the EEZ in Pakistani waters.
Pakistan Navy as guardian of this Marine Province must abide by UNCLOS. Ensuring ships carrying cargo or tankers with hydro carbon products don’t violate shipping laws. The most important factor that Pakistan Navy must ensure is to keep the marine environment clean from oil spills and deliberate dumping of garbage/waste.
The Arabian Sea is enclosed by three tectonic plates: Arabian, Eurasian and Indian Plates. Any outward movement of Eurasian towards the Arabian Plate or the Indian towards the Arabian Plate can cause tremors which can in turn become tsunami.
Pakistan’s EEZ can be sub-divided for study, exploration and economic development into following:
a. Pakistan Navy along with National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) can infuse environmental responsibilities to the fishing industry on how to keep the sea safe from waste material.
b. Fishing trawlers usually carry their dump to the open waters which causes pollution, leading to a negative effect on the marine life.
c. Arabian Sea Conservancy Law must be passed by the Parliament and both above parties should be made responsible to implement it. The law should be based on principles of the comprehensive structure of the two coastline provinces.
d. Balochistan and Sindh should form a joint approach to offshore and open water aquaculture development.
e. Strict environmental standards must be imposed on the fishing industry as well as local industry close to the shoreline to prevent pollution. Marine biologists can form different groups of volunteers along the coastline for planting of different types of the halophytic plants which can be grown across the populated coastline.
d. Pakistan’s coastal areas and the inner territorial waters are heavily polluted around the Karachi coastal area by four major industrial zones and the fishermen’s wharf. As development begins on large scale at Ormara, Pasni and Gwadar this problem of pollution is going to escalate further. Provincial Governments of Sindh and Balochistan in collaboration with Pakistan Navy and NIO, can create Sea Scavengers Organisations provided with slow trawlers to remove floating debris along the coastline.
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
I have been repeatedly mentioning the UNCLOS as it has been and will continue to be an extremely important factor in the future development of our national waters and the EEZ. I firmly believe that should we wish to capitalise on the great opportunity we have been given we must ensure that the Law of the Sea should always be fully enforced/implemented in our area which will help us in the following regard:
a. Economically utilize the resources in the Arabian Sea.
b. Increase maritime trade.
c. Develop economic value of mariculture energy and mineral resources from our territorial waters.
d. Protection of marine environment.
e. Protection of vessels’ freedom of navigation.
f. Establish Sea Marshal Training Program to provide on-board ship security for Pakistani vessels.
g. Establish basic port infrastructure at Pasni to help it develop as a major fishing port.
h. Expand Ormara as the major operational naval base with maritime security and oceanographic institute presence.
i. Work towards expanding naval operational presence at Jiwani to ensure maritime security at Gwadar.
Along the coastline not used by public as excursion beach, development of mangroves can take place. The Indus Delta-Arabian Sea mangroves in Eastern Sindh is sixth largest in the world with Sundarbans divided between Bangladesh and West Bengal (India) the largest mangrove forests in the world. Three species of mangroves grow along the coastline of Pakistan. In model, aqua farming with proper management the following has been produced in one hectare of mangrove:
1) Shrimps 20-30 kg
2) Fish 100-120 kg
3) Crab 20-30 kg
4) Mollusc 220-240 kg
5) Sea cucumber 30-40 kg
In Pakistan 95% of mangroves is the grey variety and the remaining red, black, sea holly and Indian mangroves. The grey mangroves, known as Avicennia Marina, is mostly found in tropical and subtropical zones. Pakistan can study and develop polyculture methods for increasing yield of fish and crustaceans to maximum in the mangroves, transfer them to large suspension feeders, and finally transporting them to deposit feeders.
Pakistan can enter joint ventures in fisheries with Iran and Oman and all three can develop their aquaculture in a manner to preserve the future seafood stock for domestic use and export with modern technology of submersible cage ranching systems to trap fish which can be used for separating large finned fish from smaller fish. Offshore waters can be multi-functionally operative to develop both shellfish and fin fish along with algae and seaweeds, and lastly the use of roaming cages in deep waters.
Planning and development of mariculture in EEZ from shoreline to 24 nautical miles in the sea. The marine culture (mariculture) can be attained by use of fixed or floating cages in the open water or in properly cultivated and organized mangroves bordered with halophytes of different varieties. These have economic value and can be used in following:
a. Food e. Medicines
b. Fodder f. Ornaments
c. Forage g. Chemicals
d. Fibres h. Timber
Salicornia Bigelovii grown along the coastal areas of Balochistan, which has not been developed industrially, holds great economic value given its seeds which produce oil like safflower for cooking and the use of plant in providing biofuel. There are three species of mangroves grown at various distances from seawater, which have different functions such as providing habitat for small marine life, waterbeds and small or medium water mammals that can live in salt water. Mangroves filter the sediments and protect shorelines from erosion.
Growing of oyster larvae along with mangroves with rocky formations helps secure the growth of oysters. These can be commercially harvested for domestic use or export. One great advantage of oyster matting is clean filtration of 40-50 gallons of water daily.
Pakistan has three shoreline geological structures:
a. Active Makran Subduction Zone
b. Indus Delta Basin
c. Murray Ridge
These structures have great potential for the development of mineral resources in the EEZ. Pakistan Navy and PAF can help in high altitude geological survey of the EEZ especially around the seamounts with P-3C Orion aircraft. Last survey of the seamount showed large deposits of iron, magnesium and cobalt.
Energy Power from the Arabian Sea
Pakistan can construct solar platforms on islands in the Arabian Sea in the open water on solid platforms to generate clean power which can be transferred to coastal areas through underwater cables. Tidal power can be used by harnessing power of the sea for production of energy. Feasibility studies in this regard should be undertaken.
In the field of oceanography, our naval forces assist our scientists from NIO on a regular basis in the following areas:
a. Exploration of seabed topography.
b. Study of seabed composition.
c. Study of undersea crustal motion.
d. Study of ocean currents.
Collaboration between the two agencies can be broken into two areas which are: marine environment protection & conservation, and coastal zone management. These two areas cover wide array of domains in which our naval forces have a greatly vested interest. Areas of joint interest may include the following:
a. Ecological surveys and water quality monitoring.
b. Pollution monitoring.
c. Beach and seabed protection.
d. Coastal dynamics (waves, currents, tidal level measurement & prediction).
e. Coastal hydraulic surveys (for construction of ports, jetties and harbours).
f. Coastal resource appraisal and protection.
g. Various oceanographic data services.
In view of the importance of these areas and the growing importance of our EEZ our various agencies and naval forces will have to work with increased cooperation and synergy in the future.
The success of the EEZ and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor are firmly entwined and depend entirely on the far-reaching vision of three very important groups: the Pakistani public, the Government of Pakistan and our Chinese partners. These three groups must remain dedicated to ensure that our economic future remains on track.
The writer is a security analyst and member of the Advisory Board at the Center for Global and Strategic Studies.
E-mail: [email protected]