Exercise Milan – 2024: 51 countries, including Canada, to participate in mega naval wargames in Bay of Bengal

Team India Sentinels Wednesday 14th of February 2024 11:54 PM

A submarine and several warships during Milan – 2022. (File photo via special arrangement.)

New Delhi: Milan – 2024, the Indian Navy-hosted multinational naval wargame, will begin off the coast of Visakhapatnam from February 19, as India Sentinels reported earlier. This year’s edition of the mega event will witness the participation of 51 countries with 15 foreign warships and one aircraft, the Navy said on Wednesday.

The service also confirmed the participation of Canada in the event, with which India is currently in a major diplomatic row over the assassination of a Canadian Khalistani activist in Canada, which Ottawa alleges was carried out on New Delhi’s behest.

Speaking at the curtain-raising news conference, on Wednesday, the Indian Navy’s deputy chief, Vice Admiral Tarun Sobti, said, “Milan is a major endeavour by the Indian Navy to get together friendly foreign countries from across the globe to partner with us for maritime activity. This year, in 2024, we are having Milan in Visakhapatnam, and 51 countries are participating in the event.”

Fifteen countries are sending their warships for the exercise. The French navy is coming with an aircraft, VAdm Sobti added.

Eastern Naval Command chief of staff officer (operations) Rear Admiral Shantanu Jha said, “The 9-day mega maritime exercise will be held in two phases – harbour and sea. The harbour phase will be conducted from February 19 to February 23 and the participants will exchange expertise on subject matters. They will also witness the deep submergence rescue vehicle demonstration and hold bilateral meetings.”

“The sea phase will be held from February 24 to February 27 in the Bay Bengal with the participation of 35 warships and submarines and 50 aircraft,” RAdm Jha added.

VAdm Sobti further said the exercise would witness a series of events, including an international maritime exposition, a maritime technical exhibition, a city parade, and interaction with junior officers.

As India Sentinels reported earlier, during the harbour phase, cultural exchange among participating nations takes centre stage. The activities planned include the international maritime seminar, international city parade, maritime tech exhibition, subject matter expert exchange, and the “milan” (meeting) of young officers, along with various sporting events.

In the subsequent sea phase, ships from friendly foreign countries, along with Indian Navy aircraft and other units, will engage in large-force manoeuvres, advanced air-defence operations, anti-submarine warfare, and anti-surface operations.

The nations which are participating for the first time in the Milan exercise include Canada, Eritrea, Fiji, Gabon, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Madagascar, Namibia, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Spain, Timor Leste, and Yemen.

Among the navies which are participating with the warships include Bangladesh, the Maldives, Russia, Seychelles, South Korea, and Sri Lanka.

In response to a reporter’s query on China, which has maritime disputes with several countries and claims the entire South China as its own, VAdm Sobti said, “Fifty-one countries are participating and among these 51 countries, each country has its own relationship with China. I want to make it clear that there is no message here against China.”

He further added, “Our message is that our challenges at sea – these we can face if we work together. And, so, we want to give this platform to the countries … so that they come [to] discuss how to participate, [tackle] the challenges, and do sea exercises.”

The Milan exercise, which means “meeting” or “confluence” in Hindi, started in 1995, with the involvement of four foreign nations – Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Thailand – in line with India’s “Look East policy”. The first 10 editions of this exercise were overseen by the Andaman and Nicobar Command. As the exercise gained prominence and necessitated a larger venue, Visakhapatnam, also known as the “City of Destiny”, emerged as the preferred location for future Milan exercises.

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