Starting its journey with two frig­ates and 4 minesweepers, in 1947, Pakistan Navy came of age to become a reckonable naval force in the region. Unfair distribution of naval assets at the time of partition had left the Navy in an extremely difficult po­sition to start its capability develop­ment. Much of the war-fighting, train­ing and logistics infrastructure was retained by India, in clear contradic­tion to proposals of Armed Forces Re­constitution Committee, established under Gen Auchinleck, which decided to distribute naval assets between In­dia and Pakistan with a 2:1 ratio. The final distribution that actually took place was way too off this ratio (some­where close to 5:1 in favour of India), letting Pakistan Navy face a daunting task to begin everything from scratch.

The Navy began its infrastruc­ture development from 1950s with the setting up of Dockyard and naval training schools in Karachi. Subma­rine acquisition program commenced during that time with efforts to get British and Swedish submarines but it wasn’t until the Navy was successful in acquiring a Tench Class US subma­rine in 1964. Procurement of destroy­ers and minesweepers had also been in the major acquisition plans of the Navy. Meanwhile, exercises and cruis­es were held to develop better inter­operability of the new Navy with oth­er navies of the world. In 1950, HMPS Sind visited Saudia, HMPS Tipu Sultan visited Turkey, and HMPS Shamsher visited Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand. Amphibious warfare exer­cise was conducted in October-No­vember 1951 with ships from Paki­stan and the UK. Amphibious landing was conducted on Clifton Beach on 5 November 1951, where 3rd and 8th Punjab Regiment units on the beach.

Pakistan Navy continued its up­ward journey but it wasn’t without jolts, blows and surprises. Besides the ‘partition shock’, Pakistan Navy had to sail throughsome turbulent waters that affected its road to pro­gress. On the eve of passage of Paki­stan’s first constitution in 1956, the Navy’s seniority was relegated to the second spot behind Army, signify­ing the governmental focus it would get for the time to come. Necessary funds, needed for the Navy’s growth, were hard to come by in earlyto mid-50s. At that time it had largely been assumed that the sea hadn’t figured significantly in economic and nation­al security of the country because of a long land border with India and agrarian-based economy. This gave rise to what may now be termed as ‘land-locked thinking’ or the ‘conti­nental mindset’. Some authors prefer to use the term ‘Sea Blindness’, which reflects a condition where impor­tance of the seas is grossly ignored because of lack of maritime aware­ness. In the same vein, the sea blind­ness could also overshadow the role of the Navy it plays at military and diplomatic levels.

Steadily, as it appeared, the Navy kept consolidating from every avail­able resource that it could muster to become a dependable force. This track can be seen through four ‘points of in­flection’ that immensely impacted the Navy’s outlook, both in size and doc­trine. The first of these points of inflec­tion is Pakistan’s joining of SEATO and CENTO, during the Cold War, which afforded the Navy to have American vessels and weapons. This event her­alded a new era where Pakistan Navy had a superior edge over India in an­ti-ship and self-defence weapons. In­duction of Garcia and Brooke classes of frigates, in 1989, enabled the Navy to maintain a formidable surface An­ti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capabil­ity that considerably deterred the In­dian subsurface combatants to ingress into Pakistan waters.

The second point of inflection on the development curve of the Navy occurred when it had to return the Brooke and Garcia frigates to the United States upon expiry of lease (5 years from 1989 to 1994) because Pa­kistan’s request to turn the lease into acquisition was declined by the Bush government. Though this made Paki­stan Navy, somewhat, paralyzed with­out a credible surface platform to op­erate freely in the Indian Ocean, yet it left a deep mark on Pakistan Na­vy’s strategic thinking that now pred­icated on platform diversification and lessening of dependence on the Unit­ed States. Subsequently, T-21 frigates from the Royal Navy, Agosta 90B sub­marines and Eridan class minehunt­ers from France were procured in quick succession to fill the capabil­ity void created by the departure of the US-origin platforms. T-21 frigates brought a ‘sea change’ in Pakistan Na­vy’s operational culture and doctri­nal contours. Induction of ships not only helped the Navy sustain its na­tional security commitments, but sig­nificantly transform the profession­al military education, operational sea training and branch structure of the Navy. These changes that occurred in mid-1990s are still valid to this day.

Post-9/11 environment is the third point of inflection in the Navy’s evo­lution, which significantly altered the core concepts of its operational en­durance and its capacity to under­take maritime security operations. The United States’ reorientation to­wards Indian Ocean afforded Pakistan Navy an opportunity to join and lead the multilateral naval coalitions oper­ating in the North Arabian Sea. This enhanced the Navy’s ability to oper­ate together with numerous region­al and extra-regional navies that tre­mendously raised Pakistan’s image and increased its professional capac­ity to plan and execute myriad opera­tions across the spectrum of conflict. Pakistan Navy learnt to adapt to what may be termed ‘operational transi­tion’, which is the ability to seamless­ly switch from one role to another across the domains of convention­al war-fighting, humanitarian assis­tance operations and anti-sub con­ventional warfare (SCW).

Post-2017 presents the fourth point of inflection, where Pakistan Navy re-evaluated its strategic priorities and embarked upon independent in­itiative for maritime security under the concepts outlined in its doctrinal documents. Release of ‘Maritime Doc­trine of Pakistan (MDP)’, Naval Chief’s ‘Navy’s Strategic Vision’ paper and kick-start of Regional Maritime Secu­rity Patrols (RMSP) reflect the outlook of a modern Pakistan Navy, which has the right disposition to radiate influ­ence over regional maritime matters. Induction of 8 new Hangor class sub­marines, 4 Type-054A destroyers, 4 land attack capable off-shore patrol vessels, 6 Milgem class frigates and Embraer jet Long Range Maritime Pa­trol aircraft are a few indicators of the combat lethality that the Navy seeks. The extensive expansion in Pakistan Marines and their associated infra­structure is indicative of the level of preparedness for thwarting enemy’s current or emerging amphibious de­signs, force protection and anti-SCW safeguards. Implementation of Coast­al Security and Harbour Defence or­ganization besides institution of Task Force-88 would mean Pakistan’s coast has a structured defence against ele­ments conspiring to harm Pakistan’s maritime interests.

The Navy, through RMSP, argues for a maritime security architec­ture, which is ‘region-owned and re­gion-led’ that ensures freedom to conduct maritime commerce in the Indian Ocean and particularly in the North Arabian Sea. This is in sync with the foundational maritime con­cepts presented in MDP, launched in 2018, the cornerstone of which is “preserving freedom of the seas”. Pa­kistan Navy celebrates the 72nd year of its existence, where it might need to recall the spirit once proclaimed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in his address at the Naval Academy, in March 1948: The Dominion of Pakistan has come into being and with it a new Navy has been born. I am proud to have been appointed to command it and serve with you at this time. In the coming months, it will be my duty and yours to build up our Navy into a happy and efficient force.

Pakistan Navy stood the test of time during the two wars with India. Seek­ing an offensive edge, in 1965 war, over a numerically superior adver­sary, the Navy successfully launched Operation Somnath that ended in a dramatic neutralization of Dwarka’s important radar station that steward­ed the maritime and airspace to elim­inate any chances of surprise by Pa­kistan Navy. In the 1971 war, PNS/M Hangor sank Indian frigate INS Khukri and damaged another one, ending the false sense of maritime superiority held by the Indian Navy. PNS/M Ghazi, in the same war, checkmated the In­dian aircraft carrier for considerable time. It was only after the unfortunate sinking of Ghazi that INS Vikrant was finally able to sail and conduct air op­erations in the Bay of Bengal.

Pakistan Navy can rightly claim this 14th August as a force that can play its part in pursuance of Pakistan’s strate­gic interests. With rightly configured platforms and current capabilities, the Navy is able to undertake opera­tions from nation protection to nation building.