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SOURCE: PTI

India will host a nine-day mega naval exercise in Visakhapatnam beginning February 19 that is expected to see participation of over 50 navies against the backdrop of fractious geopolitical environment including increasing security concerns in the Red Sea. Navies from the US, Japan, Australia, France, Bangladesh, South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia are set to be among the participating nations in the ‘Milan’ exercise to be conducted off Visakhapatnam from February 19 to 27, officials said.

Milan is a biennial multinational naval exercise which started in 1995 with the participation of Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand in consonance with India’s ‘Look East’ policy. The exercise flourished under the aegis of Andaman and Nicobar Command till its 10th edition. With the growing stature of the exercise and the requirement of a larger staging and hosting base, Visakhapatnam, was chosen as the preferred venue for the exercise.

The city is ideal to host the event owing to various aspects, namely major commercial hub, large port, steep coastal gradient closer to its shores enabling ships to operate closer to the shore and long coastline offering excellent viewing experience for the public, officials said. The scenic view from RK Beach in particular, coupled with excellent infrastructure is conducive to hosting various events planned during Milan for the local populace along the shore, such as operational demonstrations and the international city parade, they said.

The upcoming exercise would comprise two phases — the ‘Harbour phase’ and the ‘Sea phase’. The harbour phase, aimed to promote cultural sharing amongst the participating nations, would consist of an international maritime seminar, international city parade, maritime exhibition and various sporting events. In the sea phase, ships along with aircraft of friendly foreign countries would participate along with the Indian Navy’s aircraft and other units, the officials said.

It will involve large-force manoeuvres, advanced air defence operations, anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface operations, they said. “The Milan exercise is an exemplary demonstration of India’s commitment towards promoting maritime cooperation and security in the Indian Ocean Region,” said an official. “India’s growing strategic importance in the Indo-Pacific region has further elevated the significance of Milan exercise.

It has become an attractive platform for nations to build partnerships, exchange ideas, and enhance maritime security reflecting India’s commitment to being a responsible maritime power,” he said. The previous edition of the exercise took place in 2022 in Visakhapatnam.