India will project its growing maritime power at a massive naval exercise it is hosting from Friday with the participation of over 40 countries, amid escalating tension between Russia and Western powers over the Ukraine crisis.
Navies from the US, Australia, Singapore, France, Bangladesh, Myanmar, South Korea and Malaysia are among those who have confirmed their participation in the 'Milan' exercise to be conducted off Visakhapatnam from February 25 to March 4, officials said.
It is learnt that Russia is not sending any military platform to exercise and there is no clarity yet on whether it will depute any delegation for the event.
The biennial exercise was scheduled to be held in 2020 but was postponed to 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The harbour phase of the exercise is scheduled from February 25 to 28 while the sea phase will take place from March 1 to 4.
The Indian Navy said the exercise aims to project India as a "responsible maritime power" to the world at large.
India has been gradually ramping up its maritime prowess in the Indian Ocean in the backdrop of China's increasing forays into the region.
The Indian Navy said the exercise will witness its "largest ever participation" with more than 40 countries and that its "scope and complexity" would be wider with a focus on drills at sub-surface and air domains.
"The aim of the exercise is to hone operational skills, imbibe best practices and procedures, and enable doctrinal learning in the maritime domain, through professional interaction between friendly navies," the Indian Navy said in a statement.
It said the exercise will provide an "invaluable opportunity" to foster bonds of maritime "brotherhood" across the oceans.
The 'Milan' is a biennial multilateral naval exercise that was first rolled out in 1995 at the Andaman and Nicobar Command.
Since its inception, the event has been held biennially except for 2001, 2005, 2016 and 2020. While the 2001 and 2016 editions were not held due to international fleet reviews, the 2005 editions were rescheduled to 2006 due to the 2004 Tsunami.
"Operational conferences and seminars are also being conducted, providing participating navies/delegations with an opportunity to express their views on maritime security. The high profile foreign delegates will comprise the highest level naval leadership, agency heads and ambassadors," the Navy said.
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