China not invited to major naval exercise Milan, not ‘like minded’: Indian Navy

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China not invited to major naval exercise Milan, not ‘like minded’: Indian NavyNEW DELHI: The Chinese Navy has not been invited to one of the biggest naval exercises- Milan- in the Indian Ocean because the Indian Navy which is hosting it doesn’t believe it to be ‘like minded’ and share ‘interoperability’.

The development was shared by the Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh. When asked why China was excluded from Milan 2020, which will take place next year, he replied, “We are talking about our Indian Ocean Region. We have called the people that we think our like minded…With others we have much better interoperability.”

Forty-one countries, including the US and Russia and some others who don’t have much in common, have been invited to Milan, which will be conducted at Visakhapatnam in March next year. “We are interested in interoperability and learning best practises, so that we can meet all the challenges that are present in the Indian Ocean…There are problems between various countries, but that is not the issue here,” he said.

Milan is aimed at enhancing interaction between friendly foreign navies and learning from each other’s strengths and best practices in the maritime domain.

When asked if there could be a naval exercise with China in view of joint statements between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping envisaging military cooperation, Singh replied, “That is beyond my pay grade.”

While the armies of India and China will be carrying out the ‘Hand in Hand’ exercise in Umroi, Meghalaya this month, the situation is different in the maritime domain. China’s growing maritime presence in the Indian Ocean is what makes the Indian Navy wary about letting it participate in joint exercises. The Indian Navy has been watchful of the Chinese presence since 2008.

The Indian Navy recently drove away a Chinese research vessel, Shi Yan 1, from India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Bay of Bengal in September after it was detected there. “Our stand is that if you have to do anything in our EEZ , then you have to take our permission,” Singh said.

He added that such vessels conduct oceanographic research for deep sea mining. Other officials explained that they could also be carrying out research on fisheries and the properties of the ocean water for better submarine movement. About three to four such vessels are present in the Indian Ocean in a month. And a total of about eight Chinese ships, including research and anti-piracy escort vessels, are present in the region at all times. The navies of China and Pakistan are also scheduled to exercise in the region this month.

The Chinese Navy has more than 300 ships, submarines, amphibious vessels, patrol craft and specialised types. It is rapidly modernising its fleet, which is aligned with its emphasis on the maritime domain and on conducting operations at expanding distances from the Chinese mainland, according to a US Department of Defence report on the Chinese military.