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Navy flaunts Milan

New Delhi, Jan. 28: Warships and sailors from the navies of 16 countries around the Bay of Bengal will be hosted by India next week in the Andamans in a continued push by New Delhi to buttress its position as a regional power in the Indian Ocean.

The gathering, called Milan (meeting) 2014, has been held almost every year since 1995 and, heart-warmingly for the Indian Navy, has grown bigger in size. Though unstated, Milan 2014 is a showcasing of Indian influence over that of China’s. Beijing is not invited.

Australia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand will be among the nations that will participate with delegations as well as warships.

Though navy sources said Milan was a gathering of navies of littoral nations in the Bay of Bengal, it will also have participation from Kenya and Tanzania in Africa, the Maldives and Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.

But Vietnam, with which India is expanding military relations, South Africa, Mozambique and Brunei have said they cannot participate because of operational and scheduling reasons.

Only four navies participated in the first edition of Milan (1995). This year’s event coincides with the golden jubilee celebrations of INS Jarawa, the Indian Navy base in Port Blair.

“The growing participation over the years bears ample testimony to the success of this multilateral naval initiative. From an event of sub-regional context, Milan has grown into a prestigious international event and encompasses participation by maritime forces from not just the Bay of Bengal and South East Asia but the larger Indian Ocean Region,” said Rear Admiral R.V. Pandit, assistant chief of naval staff in charge of foreign relations.

The navies will participate in a “table-top” exercise on co-ordination in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

The foreign ships will also be open for visits by schoolchildren and public. Milan 2014 will culminate with a PASSEX — short for passage exercise — of manoeuvres at sea by all participating naval ships.