Pakistan’s navy is no longer part of the counterpiracy Combined Task Force (CTF) that operates in the western Indian Ocean, according to officials.
The decision to leave the task force was taken after the US-led operation reportedly refused to pay for fuel for the patrolling warships as part of a previous agreement.
Military officials believe that CTF nations will feel Pakistan’s absence because of its counter-piracy expertise and the Pakistani vessels’ access to waters that are not friendly to Western flag-bearing ships.
Pakistan has taken command of the task force several times since 2013 and participated in operations with two warships that patrolled the Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and the Suez Canal.
The Bahrain-based Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) – the over-arching organisation of which the CTF is a part – has confirmed that Pakistan is no longer participating with ships in the task force.
“Currently, Pakistan provides experienced naval personnel, very knowledgeable in areas such as operating in the Indian Ocean.
“The current constituents of CTF 151 does not include Pakistan, however, a new team of nations take over every 4-6 months.
“Participation remains purely voluntary and no nation is asked to carry out any duty that it is unwilling to conduct,” CMF spokesperson Wendy Wheatley said.
Distancing itself from CTF gives Pakistan a chance to carry out an independent Regional Maritime Security Patrol (RMSP) from the Gulf of Aden to the Gulf of Oman, and from the Strait of Hormuz to the Maldivian waters, a Pakistani military official said.
Pakistan, which shares a border with Iran and also has a major trade relationship with China, has had a rocky relationship with the administration of US President Donald Trump.
In August, the Trump administration stopped funding training for Pakistani military officers. For more than a decade, Pakistani officers’ training has been funded by the US government’s International Military Education and Training Program, which provides money for placements of international military officers at the US National Defense University.
In September, the US military cut $300 million in aid to Pakistan, citing its perceived failure to tackle “terrorist groups and militants”.