KARACHI -- The Multinational Naval Exercise AMAN 2017 aims to further strengthen maritime security and build up capacity to counter terrorism, piracy and smuggling, officials said.
"Naval officials from 37 countries, including Pakistan, are participating in this mega exercise to promote peace in the region, discourage piracy and further enhance their ability to meet the challenges of countering terrorism and smuggling," said Commander Abdul Rehman, director of public relations for the Pakistan Navy.
AMAN-17 is taking place February 10-14. It is the fifth multinational naval exercise held in Karachi since 2007.
"Pakistan wants peace and stability in the region and this is the message we are conveying all over the world by involving naval officers from 36 other countries in the exercises," Rehman told Pakistan Forward.
The participation of the foreign navies in AMAN-17 is evidence of the international community's trust in Pakistan's efforts to safeguard maritime security and to meet other challenges such as terrorism, human trafficking and drug smuggling by sea, he said.
Maritime security exercises
The AMAN-17 exercises are divided into two phases, harbour and sea.
The Harbour Phase included the hoisting of flags of all the participant nations to mark the beginning of the exercises on February 10.
During this phase, participants from all the countries visited each other's ships and Pakistani officials held meetings with senior foreign naval officers. In addition, there were sports events, cultural shows, band performances, international maritime counter terrorism demonstrations, and a maritime conference in which naval experts presented their research papers.
The Sea Phase consisted of exercises by the warships, helicopters and other aircraft, while special operations forces were engaged in various sea-based activities such as gunnery firings, rocket depth charge firings, anti-piracy demonstrations, replenishment at sea and flypast.
During the exercises, the naval and security officials learned new techniques from each other in fighting piracy and terrorism and in improving maritime security.
AMAN-17 will conclude February 14, after the International Fleet Review of the participating ships.
Mutual co-operation key to peace
"International navies' participation in the AMAN-17 exercises arranged by the Pakistan Navy in Karachi shows the world's resolve to make maritime security fool-proof and to enhance their capability to counter threats like terrorism and smuggling," Pakistani security analyst Col. (ret.) Mukhtar Ahmed Butt told Pakistan Forward.
The AMAN-17 exercises will further enable Pakistan and the other participating countries to build up their capacities to manage security and improve counter-terrorism skills, he said.
"Pakistan and the international community must continue their mutual co-operation and efforts to make the world peaceful, safe and free from terrorism," he added.
Al-Qaeda has threatened to target naval and cargo ships, but tight maritime security has so far shattered the terrorists' plans, said Mubasher Mir, security analyst and resident editor of the Daily Pakistan in Karachi.
"On September 6, 2014, some al-Qaeda-affiliated militants tried to hijack a Pakistan Navy warship, the PNS Zulfiqar, equipped with ballistic missiles and other deadly weapons, but naval security officials foiled this major terror plot," he told Pakistan Forward.
"Strengthening maritime security with the support of the international community is essential to discourage piracy and to meet the challenge of defeating terrorism and smuggling," he said.