Note: This article discusses about military diplomacy, joint military exercises & their advantages for Pakistan.
Since inception, Pakistan is a nation that had always strived to make close and friendly relations with as many countries as possible in an increasingly divided and militaristic world. To meet that end, the nation had learned to make good use of all resources available to the state, including its military. Over time Pakistan had perfected the art of using military diplomacy and joint exercises as a tool for achieving national interests that go far beyond just building relations. A lot of planning and preparation went into joint exercises, all with bigger goals in mind.
To better understand the critical importance of this concept, observers only need to remember what Pakistan has done over the past few years. The result of which cemented Pakistan’s soft power all the way from east Asia to the African continent, created new ties with old foes, exposed the military to new weapons / tactics, better prepared the ability to coordinate military efforts with allied states and most importantly raised once more Pakistan’s geopolitical importance on a global stage. This article will dive into this topic and bring to light the importance of Joint Military Exercises for Pakistan.
Pakistan’s soft power
Over the last few decades Pakistan’s military has shown the world its competence in ability and experience to defeat terrorism/insurgency, a problem shared by many nations all over the world. This created ample opportunity for those nations to learn from Pakistan’s experienced military and replicate the same success in their own fronts. In reaction to this it was Pakistan that started to gain some influence within those countries military culture and government attitude towards Pakistan. For example, an 8 weeklong Counter Terrorism Training of Nigerian Special Forces Battalion was conducted by Pak Army SSG team in Tarbela Jun 2017.
As a result of this valuable experience Nigerian military started experience a higher success rate at countering Baku Haram, In return the Pakistani defense industry acquired an entry point for talks Nigerian officials resulting in the first ever foreign sale of JF-17 fighters. It happened in 2019 when PAC Kamra secured Export of JF-17 to Nigeria for USD184 Mn. Today some Nigerian SOF can been seen wearing Pakistani SSG emblem as a sign of mutual respect which demonstrates soft power.
New ties with old Foes
State craft is mostly a complex and complicated affair of continuously evolving alliances and new relations The trick lies in manipulating the board in such a way that national interests can be secured while keeping strong relations with as many as possible, even if that means building friendly ties with old foes. This is exactly what Pakistan military achieved with Russia, an old foe whose downfall (As USSR) was in large part caused by Pakistan during the cold war (Afghanistan).
This shows the effectiveness of military diplomacy Pakistan has mastered, which brought Russia closer in relations after the joint exercise DRUZBA 2017 between special forces of Pakistan and Russia Armies was conducted in Minralney Vody, Russia. This is a major strategic and diplomatic victory for Pakistan as Russia was previously perceived as an all-weather India ally. Now Russia has opened the gates for Pakistan to Russian equipment operated by India allowing Pakistan to learn and adapt.
Exposure to new Weapons/Tactics
It is often said that strength / intelligence lies not in age but experience, the same can be said about militaries and the change brought within them after experiencing new weapons and tactics firsthand. This is another great effect of joint military exercises and diplomacy, and Pakistan is no stranger to this phenomenon. It was after during joint exercise DRUZBA 2017 where Pakistani officials got an unrestricted view upon Russian military hardware and urban warfare doctrine. Not long after Pakistan had already started adopting the Russian Mil-Mi 35 advanced gun ships and investigated Russian gear as possible addition within special forces inventory. The Russian SOF training was also observed and considered in limited capacity. ATATURK-XI 2021, Joint Special Forces exercise between Turkish and Pakistani forces held in Feb 2021 is another case study to look upon where both nations studied each other’s tactics.
Improve Coordination with allies
In case of multinational war, one important component of warfare that is often ignored by public when thinking about it is the inter coordination abilities of allies to work together efficiently. The concept itself sounds simple however is much harder to perfect in practice due to large diversity and difference within equipment of different nation states. Hence here joint exercises and military diplomacy save the day, as they are a effective method of running simulated battles and improve ability to cooperation. Once great example is the Shaheen Joint Air Exercises held between Pakistan and China. Various aircraft of both nations join hands and conduct large scale joint operations for maximum effect. As a result of these exercises Pakistan and China have greatly improved in ability to work together which is a concerning issue for Indian armed forces.
Raising Pakistan’s geopolitical importance
Lastly comes the most important intended effect of joint exercises and military diplomacy, which for Pakistani military leadership is raising Pakistan’s geopolitical importance within the global space. The end goals in this domain can be limitless, improve Pakistan’s global image corelating it with peace (For economic incentives), divert international attention towards issues such as Kashmir (Asset Pakistani stance), assert importance of Pakistan’s territorial peace for long term regional prosperity (indirectly calling out foreign backed insurgents), Countering hostile attempts to diplomatically isolate etc.
The greatest example of this can be the 2021 Aman naval exercises where Pakistan managed to include 46 countries. NATO allies such as the US and the UK took part alongside Russia and China in Aman-21 which is a great achievement of military diplomacy. These exercises Pakistan was able to achieve multiple geopolitical goals such as improving Pakistan’s international image, asserting the need for peace in coastal region and demolishing Indian dreams of isolating Pakistan.
All the above cases we have seen that military exercises and military diplomacy plays a vital role in statecraft and geopolitics. In the ever-evolving geopolitical climate it is always a good thing to have some military diplomatic power where it matters such as Pakistan armed forces holds in Saudi Arabia because of many Saudi soldiers being directly trained by Pakistan. While events and aspects such as this are not absolute individually, over time they build a highly structured world order, such is the art of military diplomacy.