Oceans and seas have played very important role throughout the history of mankind. Nations who understood the utility of seas ruled this world because of their extended reach, economical voyages and lift capacity. World economies have been sustained and survived over sea trade. A nation which has the sea is considered blessed as enormous potential lies underneath seas which if exploited optimally accrues great advantages. Pakistan is also one such blessed country.
Despite having 1050 km long coastline, 240,000 sq km exclusive economic zone and 50,000 sq km continental shelf, Pakistan seems deprived of its due share from the sea and marine resources. It’s simply not understandable why this incongruity prevail in our country when nations around us make good use of their marine resources? India, Iran, UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia all lie in our region and take substantial benefit from their waters. Pakistan has mostly been focussing on land resources and attention towards our marine resources has been minimal. Successive governments could not accord due importance to this vast resource that lies in our south. The marine potential under our sea therefore seems untapped.
The term Blue Economy has been coined to underscore the important contribution of marine resources to the overall economy of a country without degrading environment. Coast forms the backbone of Blue Economy as all the projects related to Blue Economy are either established onshore or offshore. Pakistan has two distinct coasts namely Sindh Coast and Makran Coast on east and west of Karachi respectively. Both the coasts are distinct in their features and potential which can bring huge dividends to the country. However, as of now, unfortunately both the coasts are in dismal state of development where even the basic commodities are scarcely available.
Pakistan Navy besides its core tasks has always been cognisant of creating awareness about the maritime sector, Blue Economy and the significance of marine resources. It conducts formal and informal sessions for people from all strata of society through workshops, lectures, visits, exposures through media etc. Pakistan Navy also conducts Exercise AMAN biannually wherein navies from around the world are invited to Pakistan to participate in variety of naval and maritime activities. Next Exercise AMAN is scheduled in year 2023. In continuation of its resolve to project Pakistan’s maritime potential, Pakistan Navy under the aegis of Ministry of Maritime Affairs has taken another initiative of organising first ever Pakistan International Maritime Expo and Conference (PIMEC). It will be clubbed with Exercise AMAN next year from 10-12 February. The idea of PIMEC is very noble yet not unique as such exhibitions are held by various other countries on regular basis. Iran, China, India, Myanmar and Singapore have been regular in organising such exhibitions. Its purpose is to showcase the own country’s potential while affording an opportunity of shake hand between local and foreign entrepreneurs.
Pakistan’s maritime sector is in desperate need of investment. However it’s not only foreign investment that we must seek, the local investment is also minimal right now and merits to be pursued. It is needless to mention that investors will be ready to invest capital if and only they consider it to be secure. Governments around the world therefore formulate and implement policies and create environment that are favourable for the investment. The motive should be that the atmosphere must automatically lure investment. This is what Defence Minister Mr Khawaja Asif vowed to have during his speech as Chief Guest on the occasion of soft launch of PIMEC on 26th of July, 2022.
If the government of Pakistan formulates and implements investor-friendly policies for the maritime sector, the initiatives like PIMEC will certainly bear fruit. The security along our coast had been disturbed during the past few years yet a favorable secure environment persists currently. This all has been achieved through the dedicated efforts of our security forces and Law Enforcement Agencies. Security can be further improved if commercial activities are promoted all along our coast and people are incentivized to visit these areas frequently. This will also help in contributing to the socio-economic uplift of the locals which is as yet dismal. Also, all commercial projects will be a beneficial incentives for foreign investors and shall automatically form part of the Blue Economy.
The idea of PIMEC is worth appreciating yet it will accrue true potential when supplemented and supported by favorable policies and environment. It’s a momentous opportunity being created by the Pakistan Navy and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs to uplift our maritime sector. The opportunity must hence be seized by all stakeholders and relevant corners and this untapped maritime potential may now be finally capitalized upon.
Author: Reema Shaukat is an Islamabad-based independent researcher.