ISLAMABAD - Pakistan announced Monday it will host navies from 45 countries, including the United States, China and Russia, for a joint military exercise in the North Arabian Sea later this month.
It will be the first time in a decade that Russian naval ships have attended drills with multiple NATO members.
Officials said the biannual multinational "AMAN" (Peace) exercise in Pakistani waters is aimed at fostering international cooperation to fight piracy, terrorism and other crimes threatening maritime security and stability.
"Exercise AMAN is about bridging gaps and making it possible to operate together in pursuance of common objectives," Rear Adm. Naveed Ashraf, commander of the Pakistani fleet, said Monday.
An official statement quoted him as saying that participating nations will attend the military drills with their "surface and air assets, special operation forces and maritime teams."
Britain, Turkey, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia and countries from the African Union are also among participants of the military exercise under the banner, "Together for Peace."
The last time the Russian navy conducted joint military drills with NATO members was in the "Bold Monarch" exercise in 2011, which took place off the coast of Spain.
NATO's relations with Moscow have since deteriorated over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in 2014.
"Pakistan considers that maritime security is not just important for itself but for all other countries whose prosperity and progress are strongly bonded with the seas," Ashraf said.
He stressed that Pakistan's "extraordinary dependence" on the seas for trade and operationalization of infrastructure projects developed with China's financial and technical assistance "make the maritime stability" an "important agenda of our national security."
The multibillion-dollar collaboration, known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is regarded as a key component of Beijing's global Belt and Road Initiative.
The project has in recent years cemented economic relations between the two allied nations, which traditionally maintain close military ties.
The Pakistani navy chief last week confirmed his institution will acquire eight submarines and four frigates from China.
"Naval collaboration between the two countries has been strengthened with the procurement of F-22P frigates, fast attack craft, helicopters, and state-of-the-art survey ships," Adm. Amjad Khan Niazi told China's Global Times.
"The PN (Pakistan Navy) has also contracted construction of eight Hangor class submarines, four Type 054A/P frigates, and medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned combat aerial vehicles from China," Niazi said.
On Monday, Pakistan's military received a donated batch of COVID-19 vaccine from the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA). It marked the first time the PLA has provided the vaccine to a foreign army.
"Pakistan's armed forces extend their deepest gratitude to PLA and People's Republic of China for this magnanimous donation during testing times," the Pakistani military said.
It added, however, that the drug will be contributed to the ongoing national drive inoculating health care workers across Pakistan.