*Srijata Saha Sahoo


It is really heartening to find that by now; Indian Navy has established a pragmatic position in the Indian Ocean region with too many good achievements to its credit. It is continuously in the process of modernizing and expanding its fleet as well as it is in the endeavour of evolving an initiative to create a forum for the littoral Navies of the region to exchange thoughts in the area of maritime diplomatic cooperation and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief’ (HADR). This initiative is termed MILAN-an effective platform for social, cultural and professional interactions and promoting camaraderie, maritime cooperation’s and inter-operability during humanitarian missions.

MILAN started in 1995. It is a biennial gathering on Navies of the Indian Ocean region and is held for building friendship and mutual understanding between participating Navies. Till date, eight MILANs have been held, in the years 1995, 1997, 1999, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014. The event was not conducted in 2001 and 2016, as the Indian Navy was hosting a significant international event - The International Fleet Review (IFR) at Mumbai and Vishakhapatnam in 2005 & 2015 respectively. The region was recovering from the after effects of Tsunami which hit these islands on 26 Dec 2004 and therefore the event could not be organized in the year 2005.

In the first MILAN, there were five participating nations- India, Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand. In MILAN 2006, four more countries, Australia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Myanmar participated including eight ships from seven countries, 200 Officers, 802 sailors and 21 civilians (onboard MV Mahsuri of Malaysia). This was the largest ever congregation for MILAN. A special attraction was first ever participation from a ship from the Myanmar Navy in such an event outside their country.

This time MILAN is being held at Port Blair of Andaman and Nicobar Islands from tomorrow. The eight-day event will witness a diverse mix of professional interactions, social events and sports fixtures. This edition of MILAN will also include a multilateral exercise at sea 'MILES' from 11-13 March, being conducted for the first time, in which 20 warships are expected to participate, including frontline warships of Indian Navy from Andaman & Nicobar Command as well as the Eastern Naval Command. An International Maritime Seminar based on the theme 'In pursuit of Maritime Good Order - Need for Comprehensive Information Sharing Apparatus', will be conducted where eminent speakers will deliberate upon various issues to evolve best practices for multi-lateral cooperation towards strengthening of maritime good order in Indian Ocean region.

This 10th edition will be the largest ever, with participation of 11 warships and 38 delegates from 16 countries namely Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand and Vietnam. It will be conducted under the overall command of the Commander-in-Chief, Andaman and Nicobar Command (CINCAN) on behalf of the Chief of the Naval Staff of the Indian Navy.

The famed International City Parade, for which the Hon'ble Raksha Mantri will be the Chief Guest, would feature marching contingents from participating countries, flag trooping by helicopters, flypast by aircrafts, sky diving by Marine Commandos, dare devil display of motorcyclists from Army, Beating Retreat Ceremony, Band performances, cultural demonstration by school children and also the Naval Continuity Drill. Also, in order to ensure greater participation of the residents of Port Blair and to provide an opportunity for interaction, these visiting foreign warships will be open for visit to school children as well as the general public to provide them an insight of the prowess of these foreign warships from the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean Regions.

MILAN 2018 will also provide an excellent opportunity to the participating navies to come together in a spirit of collaboration and mutual understanding to nurture strong ties, especially in the light that the principal maritime interest of India is to ensure and safeguard national security.