The significance of the maritime domain has held its importance for ages, as it has helped bridge the continents for a long time. Navies across the world have been the shining ambassadors of their respective nation’s international diplomatic efforts.

The strategic location of the Indian subcontinent has made it a focal point for trade and international relations, through which there has been a constant exchange of cultures, resources, assets and ideas. The Indian Navy has thus emerged as India’s tether to maintain international relations with other nations, both militarily and diplomatically.

Amongst the various activities being undertaken by the Indian Navy in this regard (such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, visits to friendly countries, military assistance, etc.), the MILAN exercise has emerged as the Indian Navy’s flagship event towards fostering camaraderie, cohesion and collaboration amongst friendly foreign Navies.

The exercise resonates with India’s international diplomatic efforts, namely ‘Act East policy’ and ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR)’.

The exercise—MILAN, which translates into ‘meeting’ or ‘gathering’ in Hindi, was incepted in 1995 as a biennial multinational event that flourished under the aegis of the Andaman and Nicobar commands till its 10th edition and later shifted to Visakhapatnam with the 11th edition.

MILAN 24 would be the twelfth edition of this exercise and it would be conducted from February 19-27 at Visakhapatnam.

MILAN 24 is likely to witness its largest-ever participation, with invites being extended to over 50 friendly foreign navies.

The MILAN 24 exercise would comprise of two phases: ‘Harbour phase’ and ‘Sea phase’. The harbour phase, aimed at promoting cultural sharing amongst the participating nations, would comprise an International Maritime Seminar, a City Parade at RK Beach, a Swavalmban Exhibition, a Subject Matter Expert Exchange, a Milan of Young Officers and various sporting events. In the sea phase, ships, along with maritime patrol aircraft and submarines of friendly foreign countries, would participate along with Indian Navy units.

It will involve large-force manoeuvres, advanced air defence operations, anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface operations, which are aimed at honing the skills of operators, maintainers, planners and executors across the full range of their skill sets, responsibilities and authority onboard a warship. It will also give the navies a chance to incorporate and instill the best practices and procedures and enable doctrinal learning in the maritime domain through professional interactions.

The MILAN exercise, from its humble beginnings in 1995 (wherein the primary focus of ‘Look East policy’ resulted in the participation of four foreign countries), has metamorphosed into a status befitting global commons and aligns with India’s concomitant G20 Presidency theme of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’.

India-led exercise greatly complements the existing bilateral and multilateral maritime framework aimed at preserving regional peace while fostering bonds of maritime brotherhood across the oceans.

As the Indian Navy projects itself as the ‘Preferred Security Partner’ in the region, MILAN 24 re-affirms India’s unabated diplomatic efforts aimed at inclusivity of all nations and progress through peace.