The Real Significance of India's MILAN Navy Exercise

Maldives says it turned down India’s invitation for naval exercise because of emergency at home

Maldives says it turned down India’s invitation for naval exercise because of emergency at home

Beyond the numbers, geographically speaking, the hosting of the exercise by India's Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), an area positioned right at the entrance of the Malacca Straits, is testament to MILAN's role as part of New Delhi's engagement with the wider region beyond its immediate neighborhood, particularly the regional states in Southeast Asia.

On Monday, a leading Chinese state-run daily newspaper quoted Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, as saying: "The India-led 2018 Milan exercise will have a larger scale than ever".

India, the USA and several other nations have been pressing for freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea, reported PTI.

"Maldives was sent an invitation to attend "Milan", a multilateral Naval exercise hosted by Indian Navy, but it declined the invitation".

In a development that may worsen relation between India and Maldives, Male has declined New Delhi's invitation for Milan naval exercise.

The biennial exercise starts on March 6 in the Indian Ocean. These exercises have been organised by India once every two years. "During such a time, security personnel are expected to be at a heightened stance of readiness".

But the bilateral links were experiencing strains since last year after the archipelago signed a free trade agreement with China last year.

The Maldivian embassy said: "When situations warrant that officers be at their post, back at home, we have held back on deploying them to participate in exercises and training programs held overseas, and as such, not being able to participate in the naval exercise at this time is not extraordinary". On the other hand, the opposition leaders including former President Mohamed Nasheed have urged India to intervene militarily to rescue the country from chaos.

"China has been aggressive in the Indian Ocean", said Admiral Lanba.

"Milan" was first held in 1995 with the participation of just five navies. "From a sub-regional event started in 1995, Milan has grown into a prestigious global event and encompasses participation by maritime forces from not just the Bay of Bengal and South East Asia but the larger Indian Ocean Region". As we see more of these headlines in the coming weeks, it is worth acknowledging the MILAN exercise's contributions on its own terms as well as from the prism of New Delhi's contributions to the region.

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