ISLAMABAD: A day-long maritime conference on Monday called for a broad-based national maritime policy, modernisation of the navy, and expansion of diplomatic engagement with the littoral states of the Indian Ocean for peace, security and capitalising on the opportunities created by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). As many as 25 recommendations were issued at the conclusion of the conference on ‘Maritime Security in the Indian Ocean: Challenges and Prospects for Pakistan’. The event was jointly organised by the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS), Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) and National Center for Maritime Policy Research (NCMPR).The conference, which was participated by policy makers, legislators, maritime experts, and academics, further supported the idea of identifying Indian Ocean as ‘Afro-Asian Ocean’ to give a sense of ownership to the littoral states. The conference was held to analyse the challenges in the realm of maritime security emanating from the militarisation and nuclearisation of the Indian Ocean and power projection by states maintaining presence in the area, emerging alliances in the region and threats to CPEC, in additional to non-traditional challenges like terrorism, piracy, food security and environmental concerns.National Security Adviser Nasser Janjua said, “Inter-state tensions in the region and significant investments in blue water navies by countries like India have brought oceans into focus as sensitive security space.” Janjua added that the vision of ‘Asia’s century’ was under stress because “security architecture and strategic stability of the region has come under stress”.He said, “India and US have carved out space to pre-position themselves on this ocean. India was being propped up as a counter-weight to China through geo-political, geo-economic and geo-military moves.”Defence Production Minister Rana Tanveer said, “There is no surprise that our competitors are opposed to CPEC, and are already seeking to sabotage it. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that we be fully-prepared to deal with any and all challenges that may arise as these opportunities unfold, not the least in the maritime arena.”Unveiling the recommendations, CPGS President Sehar Kamran said, “Maritime Security is a pivotal aspect of Pakistan’s national security, and must be acknowledged as such. A comprehensive and long-term maritime security policy with a futuristic approach based on projected requirements for the coming decades in both civilian and military maritime sectors is the need of time.”Sehar added that fulfillment of the vision of ‘Asian Century’ needs a focus on 3Cs – connectivity, cooperation, and communication. Thanking Pakistan People’s Party Co-chairman Asif Zardari for helping initiate CPEC, she said, “It underscores how we can contribute to achievement of national interest in a non-partisan manner.”The recommendations placed special emphasis on development and modernisation of Pakistan Navy.“Pakistan should increase and modernise its naval fleet, and pursue technological advancements in sea-based deterrents to ensure an assured second strike capability, especially in the context of the growing threats in the AAOR by our belligerent neighbour.”Former naval chief Asif Sandila raised the issue of problems confronting development of Gwadar.“Until those challenges are addressed, Gwadar is not going to take off. CPEC minus Gwadar would just be an extension of Karakoram Highway.”Mukhtar Jadoon, former defence additional secretary, said, “The available resources are inadequate to meet the maritime security dictates.”Importantly the conference recommended greater diplomatic engagement with littoral states in Afro-Asian Ocean region to promote mutual trust and cooperation in development of the region, besides enhancing Pakistan’s access to African markets. It called for a review of UN Resolution 2832 that declares this ocean as Zone of Peace to address the concerns of littoral states, including its nuclearisation.It was proposed that India may also be roped into the connectivity net as it was identified as the only way forward to promoting peace and stability in the region and ensuring the security of investments like CPEC.Former deputy chief of naval staff Iftikhar Ahmed said, “If we have the requisite infrastructure and enabling environment at Gwadar and the region, Gwadar will surely emerge as the economic hub of the region.”Former National Centre for Maritime Policy Research director general Pervez Asghar asked for “a coordinated and unified response to an array of common non-traditional threats that are increasingly becoming the norm”.