Navy Chief says Milan not a security bloc

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Port Blair, Feb 5 (ANI): Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma on Friday said that Exercise Milan, the largest naval conglomeration hosted by India, is not a security bloc aimed at any particular country, specially China and its increasing influence in the Indian Ocean region.

The four-day exercise will see the participation of 12 navies of the Asia-Pacific region within the context of the Indian Navy's "Look East" policy and naval interactions to this effect.

Milan is a biennial gathering of navies of the Indian Ocean region and is held for building friendship and mutual understanding between participating navies. This year's multinational exercise takes place from February 5-8 at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

"Some nations might have maritime boundary claims with various countries. It is more of a coming together not as security bloc but a forum where we can bring security forces together and fight natural and man-made disasters," Admiral Verma said.

Naval ships of Singapore (two ships), Sri Lanka, Thailand, Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar, with representatives from navies of Brunei, Philippines, Vietnam and New Zealand joining Exercise Milan.

The Indian Navy is being represented by five ships including its largest Landing Ship Tank and a Fast Attack Craft in Exercise Milan. Indian Coast Guard is also participating with its ships and officers for the exercise.

The exercise began with an international seminar on Navies in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief.

Admiral Verma made it clear that the Indian Navy's initiative to bring together different countries does not mean creating hegemony in the region.

"We talk about coming together. India becoming a headmaster is not what we want. There are similar threats,which affect every nation. Navies have been able to get rid of the scourge of piracy in the region to a great extent," he added.

The focus of Milan 2010 is a passage exercise at sea. Apart from it will promote understanding and cooperation in the areas of common interest and safeguard SLOC (sea lanes of communication) from poaching, piracy and terrorist activities, promote interoperability to the extent possible and engage in joint search and rescue and humanitarian operations.

So far six MILANs have been held, in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2003, 2006 and 2008. The event was not conducted in 2001 and 2005 as, in 2001, the Indian Navy was hosting a significant international event -the International Fleet Review and in 2005, the region was recovering from the after effects of the Tsunami of 26 Dec 2004. By Praful Kumar Singh(ANI)

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