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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - ISLAMABAD: A day-long sea exercise conducted by Pakistan and Iran’s navies in the Arabian Gulf on Tuesday was unplanned and part of a “goodwill gesture,” a spokesman for the Pakistan navy has said, rejecting media reports that it was based on a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two countries.
“There was no planned exercise between the two countries. This was a passage exercise as a goodwill gesture,” the spokesman, requesting anonymity, told Arab News on Tuesday.
A passage exercise is a routine drill involving the navies of friendly foreign countries that occurs while visiting each other’s ports or during a rendezvous at sea.
The spokesman added that Pakistani ships were returning from Dubai via Qatar and took part in the exercise with Iran as a gesture of goodwill.
“As a routine, Iranian ships were to accompany us up until Pakistani waters. Then, this passage exercise took place,” he added, explaining that maritime transfers and passage exercises were meant to streamline communication and cooperation in the event of a war or humanitarian crisis.
The statements from the spokesman follow international media reports that the naval exercise was based on an MoU between Islamabad and Tehran.
Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported that the day-long drill was aimed at “promoting military cooperation between Tehran and Islamabad,” without providing more details, while a news portal in Turkey quoted Iranian officials as saying that the drill was to “bolster the combat capabilities” of the two navies and “share information and expertise.”
“There is no MoU between the two countries, and these exercises were part of no such thing,” the spokesman said.
“These passage and peace exercises are routine between countries, and the purpose is to learn from each other’s experiences,” he added.
Tuesday’s exercise comes nearly two months after the Pakistan navy conducted its seventh biennial multinational “Aman” (peace) exercise in its waters to foster international cooperation to fight piracy, terrorism and other crimes threatening maritime security.
Around 45 navies, including those of the US, Saudi Arabia, Britain and China, took part in the Arabian Sea exercise with ships and observers.
Pakistani ships recently participated in an exhibition in Dubai, traveling onward to Qatar and Bahrain. They stopped at the Bandar Abbas port in Iran on their way back, the spokesman said.
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