India is going to host navies from at least 16 countries across the world for eight-day mega naval exercise, ‘Milan’ starting from March 6 to March 13. Biennial exercise Milan is going to be hosted by the Indian Navy at Port Blair. The main aim of this exercise is to expand regional cooperation. India has a long history for its contribution with respect to Indian Ocean and maritime domain. India’s involvement in wider multilateral groupings such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the Indian Ocean Naval symposium (IONS) and carrying out series of exercises with other countries puts the case in point.
The first edition of ‘Milan exercise was held in 1995, with just four countries participated in the exercise. Till now it has only been held nine times.
The ‘Milan’ is to be held by Andamn and Nicobar Command, this area is positioned at the entrance of Malaca Starits. This is a strategic move which clearly shows India’s intentions to build strong ties with South-East Asian countries. ‘Milan’ will improve India’s interoperability and relations with the participant countries such as Indonesia and Singapore.
Smaller countries like Myanmar will be benefited by this exercise as it will give an opportunity to such countries to interact with significant strategic players of the world other than super powers.
‘Milan – 2018’ can be seen as New Delhi’s strategy to counter China’s operations in the South China sea. In the latest development Maldives has rejected India’s invitation to participate in the ‘Milan’. There have been reports that China is looking to establish ‘Joint Ocean Observation Station’ in the Maldives. Earlier in February Chinese warships were seen sailing into the East Indian Ocean. Maldives has signed a Free Trade Agreement with China in December 2017.
The 16 countries confirmed by the Indian Navy which are participating in ‘Milan – 2018’ are Australia, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand, Oman, Vietnam, Thailand, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kenya and Cambodia.
Exercises like Milan will have India to enhance its stature in maritime realm.