Military diplomacy is key in achieving national interests in the status quo
The current global political system requires states to attain their national objectives through soft power apart from the conventional use of hard power. The military’s mandate thus goes beyond the realm of traditional hard power and includes supporting government initiatives to accomplish national policy goals as well. In the light of Pakistan’s current situation and geopolitical significance, the military diplomacy formula has helped bolster our ties with other nations. The efforts by Pakistan Army were aptly complimented by the British Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) as ‘more action, fewer words.’
Joint Military Exercises
Combined military exercises with multiple nations have paved the way to further our national, economic, and diplomatic objectives, improving the overall relations with these countries. Relations with Russia were also revived as a result of successful military training and exercises.
A few of these major exercises include: the exercise ‘Fajr-ul-Sharq 1’ between Pakistan and Jordan on December, 2016; an eight-week long Counter Terrorism Training of Nigerian Special Forces Battalion by Pakistan Army Special Service Group (SSG) team in Tarbela in June 2017; the joint exercise ‘Druzhba’ between special forces of Pakistan and Russia, conducted in Minralney Vody, Russia in September 2017; the Pak-Saudi special forces joint counter-terrorism exercise ‘Al-Shehab-2’ in December, 2017; the Pak-China joint military exercise ‘Warrior-VI’ in December, 2018; the sixth bilateral exercise ‘Sea Guardians’ between the Pakistan Navy and People’s Liberation Army (Navy) in January 2020; the Pakistan-Bahrain joint exercise ‘Al Badar-IV’ in February, 2020; the joint special forces exercise ‘Ataturk-XI’ between the Turkish and Pakistani forces in February, 2021 and; the Pakistan-Morocco Bilateral Joint Exercise in October, 2021.
Meanwhile, 46 countries took part in the Naval exercise ‘Aman-21.’ North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) allies, United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK), took part in the exercise alongside Russia. Under the auspices of the Pakistan Navy, divergent forces have shared counterterrorism strategies, recognising that the threat of exercise, Falcon Talon 2022, at an operational base of Pakistan Air Force.
Conduct of International Competitions
Growing military powers engage in international military games to assess the perceptions and motives, competence, and conflict activities of leading powers in the international system. The Pakistan Army takes the lead in arranging such competitions to guarantee Pakistan’s relevance and stability. From November 1 to 7, 2021, the third International Physical Agility and Combat Efficiency System (PACES) competition was held in Lahore under the arrangements of the Pakistan Army. Contingents from six countries comprising 107 military personnel from Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) took part in the mega event. The event showcased Pakistan as a peaceful and sports-loving nation, projecting the true face of our country.
The ceremony of the 53rd World Military Shooting Championship (Shotgun) 2021 was held in Lahore under the auspices of Conseil International du Sport Militaire (CISM), commonly known as the International Military Sports Council. This was the second time Pakistan held an international military championship. Over 50 participants, including 41 international shooters from Russia, France, Sri Lanka, Palestine, and Kenya participated in the event with the motto ‘friendship through sports’. Moreover, officials from Guinea, Iran, and Nepal were also present. Representatives of CISM, a large number of dignitaries, diplomats, and spectators witnessed the colourful and impressive opening ceremony.
Separately, from March 7 to 9, 2022, the fifth international Pakistan Army Team Spirit (PATS) Competition, 2022 was held at the National Counter Terrorism Centre in the mountainous town of Pabbi. Eight Pakistani and eight international teams, including teams from Jordan, Morocco, Nepal, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, and Sri Lanka, participated in the competition. Additionally, the Pakistan Army team won the gold medal in the international ‘Adventure Competition’ held in Nepal from March 18 to 21, 2021. The competition was aimed at testing the physical endurance and mental agility of participants and included cross-country running, cycling, and rafting.
In October, 2017 and October, 2018, Pakistan won Gold Medals in ‘Exercise Cambrian Patrol’ which was held in the UK. A total of 134 teams from 31 countries participated in the exercise. On October 14, 2020, the Pakistan Army won an international military drill competition known as the Pace Sticking Competition held at the Sandhurst Royal Military Academy in the UK, for the third time in a row. The Pakistan Army first participated in the event in 2018.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Army swimmer Bisma Khan won silver medal in the 13th South Asian Games held in Nepal between December 1 and 10, 2019. Pakistan Army tennis players, Haiqa Hassan and Hoor Fawad, won silver medals in the South Asian Junior Table Tennis Championship (Doubles) and Muhammad Ahmed won a silver medal in South Asian Junior Table Tennis Championship (Single) held in the Maldives from May 7 to May 10, 2022. Separately, the Pakistan Services contingent comprising six boxers – four from the army, one from the navy, and one from the air force – participated in 58th CISM World Military Boxing Championship held in Moscow, between September 16 and 25, 2021. As many as 39 countries participated in the championship and Pakistan Army Boxer Sepoy Bilawal Zia won the bronze medal.
Contributions to UN Peacekeeping
Pakistan, which firmly believes in the principles of the United Nations (UN) Charter, has, since 1960, been actively participating in the UN multinational efforts to maintain peace and order around the globe. Pakistani peacekeepers have excelled in going beyond the call of duty to aid humanity, build institutions and promote peace. Their performances have been acclaimed by the UN and world leaders alike and have fostered everlasting bonds of respect and friendship. UN peacekeeping missions have both promoted the diplomatic clout of Pakistan at the UN and the soft power of its Army worldwide.
Since 1960, during its long association with UN peacekeeping missions, Pakistan has contributed 200,000 troops and its 168 peacekeepers, including 24 officers, have laid down their lives in service of peace. This is its most tangible assistance to the UN’s efforts to maintain international peace and security. Along with continuous efforts to promote peace, Pakistan’s endeavour of rescuing 2,000 people in the Congo floods and the services of women peacekeepers in the fight against Covid-19 were widely hailed.
Pakistan is the fifth largest contributor of uniformed personnel to the global peacekeeping operations, currently deploying more than 4,462 military and police personnel to the UN operations in Abyei, the Central African Republic, Cyprus, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, South Sudan, and Western Sahara.
Pakistan has also deployed 15 percent female SOs in UN missions, which is an important benchmark. Moreover, a female engagement team was deployed in July 2019 in Congo comprising 20 officers that came from different arms and services. On May 26, 2022, six Pakistani peacekeepers were awarded posthumously by UN at a ceremony. These six Pakistani are among the 117 peacekeepers that have been awarded the UN medal for sacrificing their lives for the cause of peace. Five of them including, Tahir Ikram, Tahir Mehmood, Mohammad Naeem, Adil Jan and Mohammad Shafiq, belong to the Pakistan Armed Forces, along with one civilian, Ibrar Syed.
On August 13, 2013, the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon during the inauguration ceremony of the Centre for International Peace Studies (CIPS) in Islamabad said: “More than 100 countries contribute troops and police for UN peacekeeping missions. Pakistan is number one. It is impossible to speak about the history of UN peacekeeping without highlighting such contributions of Pakistan.”
During the current UN Secretary-General’s visit to CIPS on February 17, 2020, paid tribute to 157 Pakistani peacekeepers who sacrificed their lives to protect some of the most vulnerable people in the world. He remarked that, “Pakistan is one of the most consistent and reliable contributors to peace efforts around the world. I have seen for myself the professionalism, and the commitment of Pakistani military, police, and civilian personnel in our missions and I thank you for your important contribution to creating a safer and more peaceful world. Pakistan is the first country to endorse the Declaration of Shared Commitments on Action for Peace-A4P. Pakistan is a leader in championing women peacekeepers and an example for other troop contributors.”
Pakistan’s participation in peacekeeping activities of the UN reflects its belief in the brotherhood of mankind and its commitment to peace across the globe. The contributions it has made in this regard bespeaks its desire to see the principles of human dignity, freedom, and self-determination applied to all the peoples struggling to secure their inalienable basic rights.
Being the flagbearers of courage and determination against the War on Terror, the Pakistan Army is leaving its mark on African soil as well by becoming a living example of Quaid’s words, “our objective should be peace within and peace without. We want to live peacefully and maintain cordial and friendly relations with our immediate neighbours and with the world at large. We have no aggressive designs against anyone. We stand by the UN Charter and will gladly make our full contributions to the peace and prosperity of the world.” Moreover, he said: “We are prepared to make our utmost contribution to the promotion of peace and prosperity among the nations of the world. Pakistan will never be found lacking in extending its material and moral support to the oppressed and suppressed peoples of the world and in upholding the principles of the UN Charter.”
Foreign Military Cooperation
Some foreign military cooperation includes the operations of the China-Pakistan Joint Committee of Cooperation, enhanced military-to-military cooperation with China – establishment of the 2+2 Forum in 2018, Revival of the CT forum and International Military Education and Training Program (IMET) with the US, initiation of army level staff talks with China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Indonesia, and Malaysia, the establishment of the first hotline mechanism between 10 Corps Head Quarters and the Chinese PLA Xinjiang, and the enhanced defence partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Further efforts include the deployment of aerial defence tactical fighter aircraft, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) squadron, new deployment for UN peacekeeping operations in Mali, South Sudan and Abyei and induction of women peacekeepers, provision of relief-aid to friendly states like Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, and Ukraine, and assistance in the evacuation of 5,09,768 foreigners through land and air routes after the hasty US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, 2021.