India Plans Jumbo 46-Nation Naval Exercise
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India Plans Jumbo 46-Nation Naval Exercise

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Quad nations among the invitees

In what will be a show of diplomatic heft, India plans to host the largest naval exercise involving 46 countries. The naval exercise, ‘MILAN 2022’, is scheduled for March next year in Visakhapatnam. The invitations have been sent to 46 countries, senior official said today.

Some of the nations have confirmed their participation. Among the countries that have been reportedly invited are the Quad nations — the US, Japan and Australia.

The exercise is conducted once in two years. The one in 2020 was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic. The exercise MILAN, which commenced two decades ago, was conducted at Port Blair, Andaman Nicobar. Since the space for berthing of warships at the islands was limited, Visakhapatnam was chosen. This will be the first multi-nation exercise of such a scale since the military stand-off in Eastern Ladakh and the laying down of agenda of cooperation by the Quad in the Indo-Pacific.

Sources say all those who were on the invite list in 2020 have been invited this time as well. This includes countries located east and west of India such as Saudi Arabia, Israel, New Zealand, the UAE, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Bangladesh, France, Kuwait and Myanmar.

Also on the invite list are countries which are locked in a dispute with China over territorial boundaries in the South China Sea. The invitees include Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines. These nations are locked in framing a “code of conduct” on navy and cargo operating in the South China Sea.

China, which has lost its argument at the United Nations on defining territorial waters under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), has refused to accept the verdict. It has opened its own negotiations to establish a “code of conduct” in the hydro-carbon rich sea.

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