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Pakistan Navy Ships in Africa: Refining Bilateral Relations

Ali Basit

Africa enjoys a collective GDP of over US $2.3 trillion and an import market of around $500 billion and their collective potential will only be realized, however, if security collaboration and effective African Diplomacy, a multilateral and collective approach by unified Africa,across regional and international levels iscontinued with perseverance.The majority of African states had the least representation comprising of only four states in the United Nations (UN)when it was founded in 1945. This profile has changed dramatically and in the second decade of the twenty?first century, Africa has more sovereign states than any other region in the world, amounting to more than 25 percent of the UN membership.
Historically, Pakistan has enjoyed cordial relations with Africa. Since its inception, Pakistan has assisted struggling African states with capacity building initiatives for their government officials and military staff while having diplomatic missions in 13 African countries.However, despite the shared cordiality in Pakistan-Africa relations, Pakistan’s foreign policy lacks the strength required for unlocking the untapped potential in these relations. The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) has described the immense potential of African economies as “lions on the move”. Therefore, with vast economic opportunities in Africa to explore, Pakistan-Africa trade is inevitable.
In 2017, the Ministry of Commerce announced ‘Look Africa Plan’ to engage with top 10 African states which comprising 78% of the total African GDP. This policy initiative offers trade agreements with African trading blocs namely Southern African Customs Union, East African Community and Economic Community of West African States. Currently, Pakistan has only $3 billion trade with Africa against the total volume of $3 trillion which accumulates only 0.3% of Pakistan’s share with presently commerce ministry’s commercial sections only exists in four African countries – Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and Morocco.Keeping in view the potential of African continent, MOFA in conjunction with Commerce Ministry, has recently arranged African Nation Enclave in whichmore than 40 diplomats from African countries attended the African Envoys conference titled “Engage Africa”. While addressing the Engage Africa conference, President and Prime Minister of Pakistanhave highlighted the need for engagement with African Nations with a more open and assertive economic and diplomatic policies and urgedthe need to work towards close cooperation, essentially in the domains of defense and trade to enhance prosperity and peace in their regions.Moreover, the remarks of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi further the government’s stance onEngage Africa while observing; “Due to Africa’s rich natural resources and growing middle-class consumer market, the World Bank has predicted that most African countries will reach middle-income status by 2025. This presents a tremendous opportunity for Pakistani goods and services.”
A cognizant of Pakistan’s diplomatic and economic alignment vis-à-vis federal government’s recent initiative about Pakistan- Africa convergence, Pakistan Navy has scheduled Over Seas Deployment of African Continent to strengthen HADR (Human Assistance & Disaster Relief) and Naval Diplomacy across the entire continent especially the western African coast. It is pertinent to highlight that Pakistan Navy had already served the humanity through earlier HADR Operations in Yemen, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Colombo and Indonesia during theearthquake and Tsunami and earned a great amount of respect and gratitude for the country.While appreciating foreign policy objectiveswith Africa Countries; Pakistan Navy deployed its two modern ships Frigate PNSASLAT and Oil Tanker PNSMOAWIN on port visits to African countries including Morocco, Mauritania, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Kenya.
The convoy during its long expedition to African states visited port of Casablanca (Morocco), Nouakchott (Mauritania), Takoradi (Ghana) and Lagos (Nigeria)during the months of November and December 2019. According to Pakistan Navysources, the Contingent interacted with range of local and foreign dignitaries and exchanged views on the regional security construct especially the threats from non-traditional sources including Terrorism, maritime pollution and drug trafficking etc. Besidesmaritime security, mutual experiences and endeavors on maritime blue economy were deliberated. Moreover, during thesevisits, the situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir remained as the focal point for uncovering the atrocities being made by the Indian forces. To signify this most significant policy objective, the mission commander has drawn attention of the worthy delegates, dignitaries and various other diplomatic officials to the illegal actions of the Indian government in the Indian held Jammu and Kashmir which has endangered the security of the entire region and the world at large.
Despite these initiatives in Naval Diplomacy domain, Pakistan Navy Convoy also judicially utilized Pakistan Navy Ship MOAWIN’s recently developed highly state of the art medical and rescue facilities at extended ranges. In this scope, Medical camps were established in coordination with local authorities during Ship’s stay at Nouakchott (Mauritania), Takoradi (Ghana) and Lagos (Nigeria) where hundreds of patients wereprovided withgeneral treatment, minor surgeries and dental procedures alongside free medicines. It is also important to notice that these notions of welfare were well appreciated by the local leadership including the Naval Chiefs of these respective countries. In continuation, during the latest leg, both the Ships visited port of Lagos, Nigeria. Pakistan and Nigeria maintain good bilateral relations based on strong foundations and common interests of preserving lasting regional peace. Nigeria is located in Western region of Africa having coastline of more than 850Kms. It borders with Niger and Chad in the North, the Republic of Beninin the West and the Republic of Cameroon and the Atlantic Ocean in the South. In recent visit to Nigeria, Pakistan Navyships has paid port visit along with establishing medical camp where routine medical checkups and various minor surgical procedures were carried out by Pakistan Navy’s medical staff onboard.
Thus in line with the theme of national policy of averting the use of violent means through diplomatic gestures, Pakistan Navy has been the forerunner in promoting naval diplomacy through various channels. Moreover, recent port calls by Pakistan Navy Shipswill allow Pakistan to further strengthen existing relations with African countries and deepen political, economic, security and socio-cultural ties in the future. Therefore, hope resides in the possibility that the Pakistan Navy ships visit to African states will further bolster support to Foreign Ministry of Pakistanin consistence with the vision of Political leadershipto achieve national policy objective aims atdeepening Pakistan’s engagement with Africa in diverse fields.

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