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13-nation 'Milan' naval exercise kicks off in Andaman

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Indian Navy ships. A file photo

PORT BLAIR (PTI): Concerns over China’s naval expansion and its growing influence in the Indian Ocean Region notwithstanding, Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said the 13-nation annual Milan exercise that began here on Friday was not “a security bloc” against any other maritime force.

“Milan-2010 is more of coming together of navies (in the South Asian and Southeast Asian region, including Australia and New Zealand) and not a security bloc. The forces can contribute to each other in providing relief and humanitarian assistance during natural and man-made disasters,” Verma told reporters here soon after the launch of the five-day event.

“I do not think such suspicions (in China over India’s naval initiatives such as Milan) should exist. Yes, it is a fact that some of the nations will be having problems of maritime boundary claims with other countries,” he said when asked if the nations participating in the Milan exercise having problems with maritime boundary with China could lead to suspicion of a gang-up against it.

“It is not a multilateral exercise, but more of coming together for disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. Much can be contributed by the navies of the region towards each other in this area. Piracy in these waters has long ceased to be a problem. If it had been, that would be another area we would have concentrated on,” he added.

Verma said the Navy’s and the Indian armed forces’ plan always took into account the developments in the region. “The Navy and the Indian armed forces will take into account all that is happening in your region. I won’t name any one country or the other.

“Have complete confidence in your own force levels and deterrence as far as conventional capabilities is concerned,” he said.

Noting that funds for the armed forces’ new acquisitions were never a problem, Verma said it was how the Navy used the money to convert them as assets that mattered the most.

“Today we are not suffering from shortage of funds. But how soon we utilise them and convert them in to assets. That is the direction we have to move. We have to move much faster. I agree with that,” he noted.

Verma assured the nation that the armed forces' capabilities were growing to meet any threat.

Milan, inaugurated by Andaman and Nicobar Lieutenant Governor retired Lt Gen Bhopinder Singh, has attracted participation of nine warships from eight other nations in the event with four others sending their representatives for the table-top exercise and seminar.

Among the countries that have sent their warships are Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore (two ships), Sri Lanka and Thailand, apart from five ships from India including a Landing Ship Tank Large, Medium, fast attack craft.

Others to send representatives are Brunei, Philippines, New Zealand and Vietnam.

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