Written By Ubaid Ahmed:
Africa was the first continent Islam spread out of Arabia and the first African converted to Muslims were the inhabitants of the Sahara-the Berbers, an ethnicity of several nations mostly indigenous to North Africa and some parts of West Africa. And it was by the second half of tenth century that Sahara had become known as Dar al Islam. Islam cut across the ethnic, family and clan loyalties and stressed Islamic principles of fraternity and brotherhood. Pakistan’s relations with numerous African nations traced back to their particular freedom movements. Pakistan bolstered both ethically and tangibly the nations as Algeria, Kenya, Sudan, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Morocco, Libya, Egypt and Nigeria. Pakistan in pursuance of its foreign policy objectives had always remained committed to maintain stability and curb terrorism in all its forms. Pakistan Navy therefore on a support role and as an instrument of Government Policy, has a mission to safeguard freedom of seas and trade and secure Sea Lanes of Communication emanating from the Strait of Hormuz and straddling across the Horn of Africa.
Pakistan Navy Ships, PNS MOAWIN and PNS ASLAT recently visited Lagos, Nigeria as part of Overseas Deployment to the African Countries. This was Pakistan Navy’s maiden footprint at Nigeria; therefore held significant strategic importance and expected to pave way for future collaboration among the two nations in a plethora of avenues alongside the military. The following port visit was the fourth port of call by Pakistan Navy Ships, prior visiting Lagos the ships had visited Casablanca (Morocco), Nouakchott (Mauritania) and Takoradi (Ghana). The ongoing generous, goodwill and Humanitarian Assistance Deployment of Pakistan Navy ships is aimed to further strengthening the existing friendly ties with African countries besides generating strong goodwill amongst the locals by establishing Medical Camps and providing humanitarian assistance. The other pertinent feature of the aforesaid deployment is to highlight the atrocities being committed by the Indian troops over the unarmed innocent Kashmiris, who still remain under the lock down to which the world has turned blind eye cold heartedly. And as the dirt has yet to settle the fascist regime of Modi has again shown its true colour, shunning the pretence of already faded shades of the tri colour in the name of Citizen Amendment Act; which according to them will save religious minorities such as Hindus and Christians from persecution in neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan by offering them a path to Indian citizenship. But critics say otherwise, for the law does not make the same provisions for the Muslims, subsequently weakening the secular foundations of India. More or less with the same vantage point, similar concerns were also raised during all high level interactions of Pakistan Navy Mission Commander and his delegation.
African maritime security is severely affected by maritime piracy and armed robbery at sea. Maritime piracy is not a new phenomenon; it has existed for as long as people and commodities have traversed the oceans. However, two maritime regions are chiefly troubled by maritime piracy: the Gulf of Aden to the East of Africa and the Gulf of Guinea to the West. The most common form of modern-day piracy and armed robbery at sea in both Gulfs is the hijacking of ships, with a focus on kidnapping and ransom payments. Aside from national and regional effects, maritime piracy and armed robbery at sea are considered a threat to the global economy. Thus fighting piracy in the Gulf of Guinea requires a broad understanding of maritime security and collaborative efforts both from the regional governments and the external partners.
Pakistan Navy Ships’ port call to Lagos, Nigeria was fully capitalized in terms of professional and social interactions with host country. Apart from discussions on topics of mutual interests, the senior Officers of Nigerian Navy were also apprised regarding the rapidly deteriorating regional peace and its serious implications in the Maritime domain. Nigerian Naval authorities also briefed the Pakistani counterparts on Nigeria’s peculiar maritime environment and its efforts in collaborative maritime security. The Pakistani delegation appreciated the collective efforts of African Nations to counter traditional as well as non-traditional security threats. Furthermore, during interactions, lessons and experiences learnt from Terrorism were also shared to develop effective strategies in maritime domain. Nigerian Navy appreciated the sacrifices of PN and strategy on ground to mitigate this menace. Likewise, Pakistan Navy’s role in combating Counter Piracy and Maritime Security Operations to maintain peace and stability in Indian Ocean Region were duly acknowledged. Nigerian authorities pledged further cooperation in Maritime Security Operations to reinvigorate Navy to Navy relations.
Besides deliberating maritime security and diplomacy and conduct of Naval drills at sea; Pakistan Navy Ships also established a Medical Camp which provided free check-up, treatment and medicines to patients, by the embarked Medical Specialist Team. During the two days medical camp, thousands of patients were provided free initial and follow up treatment including minor surgeries and dental treatments. Pakistan Navy Ships’ visit to Lagos thus remained instrumental in re-engaging ties between Pakistan and Nigeria, as well as forging strong people to people relationships through the humanitarian assistance.
It was also strongly desired and stressed by both sides to see these relations to grow leaps and bounds. Same in perspective, matters of mutual interests, for instance Pakistan Navy training exchange programmes, ship construction and breaking, intelligence sharing mechanisms, procedures to update Maritime Domain Awareness, mitigate Sea Blindness and efficacy of Pakistan Navy’s regional initiatives such as Regional Maritime Security Patrols (RMSP), came under deliberations. In a nutshell, it is believed that the goodwill generated through Pakistan Navy Ships visit to Nigeria will pave the way for future collaboration and enduring friendship between the two Navies. Moreover, the positive impact generated through establishment of free medical camp will go a long way in developing deep rooted relationship between the people of both countries.