The Indian Navy is getting ready for the largest ever multilateral `Milan’ exercise which has been scheduled for the end of February, 2022. More than 40 plus navies from across the globe are expected to enter the Indian waters starting next month.
This time besides the member countries of the QUAD (Japan, the US and Australia), the member nations of AUKUS (the UK, Australia & the US) too are going to be participating in this drill which is going to be all about interoperability and jointness in the waters. “The focus will also be on ensuring the sea lanes are open and freedom of navigation. This is important as there is no stopping China which continues its bullying tactics in the Indian Ocean Region waters as well as providing assistance to neighbouring countries,” explained a senior officer.
There are reports about China recently delivering Type 035B Ming Class (diesel-electric) submarine to the Myanmar Navy. India too has given one submarine to Myanmar. The delivery of the submarine came a day after India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla had visited that country (December 24, 2021).
China had provided Ming Class submarines to the Bangladesh Navy.
Financial Express Online had reported in 2020, that India had transferred a Russian origin Kilo class submarine INS Sindhuvir from its fleet to Myanmar. Myanmar named as UMS Min Ye Thein Kha.
Recently, China went a step further and announced its plans to supply Yuan class conventional submarines equipped with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) as well as Type-054A stealth frigates. Reports have recently indicated that Pakistan has bought a whole fleet of Chinese fighter aircraft.
Countries expected to participate in Milan:
Neighbourhood & Asean member countries like Brunei, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, South Korea, Cambodia and others.
African nations: Mozambique, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Tanzania, Comoros among others.
GCC countries: Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Bahrain & Saudi Arabia.
QUAD & AUKUS member countries: Japan, the US, the UK, and Australia.
Also, participating in this drill will be Russia, and France.
More countries keen to participate in various drills with India
Both India and likeminded navies are getting together to find ways to counter the growing presence of China in the Indian Ocean Region and Indo-Pacific, Beijing is busy flexing its muscles all the way to the waters of South America.
According to senior officials, there have been requests from various navies from across the globe who have expressed their keenness to join various formats of drills in the sea. Countries are looking for ways to stop Chinese expansion, and this has led to a significant increase in the naval exercises and operational interactions with the navies in the region.
What does this mean?
“This means that there might be plans afoot to expand certain formats of drills like Malabar exercise. This is one among the most complex naval exercises India conducts with any country,” explained the officers quoted above. Besides the bilateral, there could be more naval exercises in trilateral format, as well as larger formats. “More engagement with like minded navies is required to ensure there is freedom of navigation in the waters.”
The US, Japan, Australia and India every year get together for Malabar naval drill.
Financial Express Online had reported in October 2021, during the Malabar Exercise the QUAD navies had focused on exchanging notes on how to enforce rule of law in the Indo-Pacific as the Chinese aggression continues to grow in the region & freedom of navigation.
In 2021, the Indian Navy had carried out bilateral drills with countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia and Malaysia in the Indo-Pacific and South China Sea region.
As has been reported earlier, in an effort to improve its Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), over the years, India has inked white shipping agreements as well as Logistics Support agreements with several countries. These agreements help in creating more awareness and help further in maritime security as well as in operational turnaround.
At the heart of the Indo-Pacific strategy is to point the finger at China, “to prevent Chinese industrial policies and trade practices from disrupting global markets and undermining U.S. competitiveness. Building an international consensus that Chinese industrial policies and trade practices are undermining the global trading system. The entire region promotes American values to maintain influence and thus offset the influence of a Chinese-style system.”
The Indian Ocean is one of the areas with the most intensive maritime trade routes in the world. The Indian Ocean’s “oil routes” and “trade routes” are the “strategic lifelines” of many countries including China.