MILAN 2014 is the ninth edition in the MILAN series of multilateral naval engagements that was started by the Indian Navy. The MILAN initiative was launched in 1995 by the in consonance with the country’s ‘Look East’ policy of strengthening friendly ties with the nations in the Bay of Bengal region and South East Asia. The seas are the common bond between these nations and have been used for centuries to ply trade between them. As a natural outcome of these associations, cultural ties and friendly relations also blossomed between India and several of these countries. There still are abundant evidences of the strong bonds that flourished in the ancient times between India and these nations through the sea borne routes. In the 1990s, when India embarked on the ‘Look East’ policy to revive our ties with neighbouring nations in the East, the Indian Navy became one of the natural contenders to promote this initiative. As a consequence, the Indian Navy established the MILAN event with the underlying theme of ‘friendship across the seas’. The central location of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands made them the obvious choice for the Indian Navy to host this event. MILAN is the Hindi word for ‘tryst’ or ‘meeting’ and was chosen as the title for this biennial gathering of naval and maritime forces from littoral countries of the region.
The initial editions of MILAN were conducted by the erstwhile Fortress Commander, Andaman and Nicobar or FORTRAN, who was the seniormost naval authority responsible for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The first edition of MILAN saw participation of four neighbouring countries, Indonesia, SIngapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand besides India. The next two editions in 1997 and 1999 saw the participation increasing to seven countries, with Bangladesh and Malaysia joining in. MILAN was not held in 2001 as the same year saw the Indian Navy hosting the first-ever International Fleet review in Mumbai. This year also saw the establishment of the Andaman and Nicobar Command.
In the early part of the decade, the growing strategic significance of the islands led the country to create India’s first unified theatre Command, the Andaman and Nicobar Command. The Command has components of the Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force and the Indian Cost Guard placed under a single, Commander-in-Chief instead of their respective service heads. With it’s motto of ‘Victory Through Jointness’, the integrated characteristic of the Andaman and Nicobar Command, enables it to orchestrate an unified response to challenges from any dimension.
After its creation in October 2001, the Andaman and Nicobar Command assumed the onus of conducting MILAN. The first edition of MILAN under the newly constituted Command was held in 2003 and saw the participation increase to eight countries. Australia and Myanmar were the new inclusions for MILAN, while Bangladesh was unable to participate in MILAN 2003. MILAN for the year 2005 was initially scheduled in February 2005. However, following the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that devastated the region in December 2004, led to MILAN being postponed to 2007. The Andaman and Nicobar Command soon embarked on a massive rehabilitation programme in the islands to recover from the disaster. Seeing the rapid progress and the brisk pace of rehabilitation, a bold decision was taken to advance the MILAN to January 2006. Considering the massive scale of planning and co-ordination involved in preparation for the mega event and the several constraints and limited resources within which the arrangements were to be undertaken, the task was an onerous challenge. However, with relentless efforts the event was successfully conducted in January 2006 thus underscoring the swift return to normalcy in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The participation in MILAN 2006 had also increased to eight foreign countries with Bangladesh rejoining the event after her brief absence in 2003. MILAN continued to bloom into a successful forum during the subsequent years. Thirteen countries participated in MILAN 2010 and the participation increased to fourteen countries in 2012.
Over the years, MILAN has burgeoned into an effective forum to address common concerns in the maritime domain as also to help forge co-operative initiatives. The biennial event has now become an eagerly awaited gathering of littoral nations to build friendship, strengthen cultural ties and foster mutual understanding between the participating nations. MILAN 2014 will be the largest ever gathering with the participation of sixteen countries.
Meanwhile, the Commander-in-Chief of the Andaman and Nicobar Command, Air Marshal PK Roy, PVSM, AVSM, VM, VSM, ADC along with senior officials of the Command carried out a comprehensive onsite review of the various preparatory arrangements at the Naval jetty on 29 January 2014. The Air Marshal was recently conferred with the Param Vishisht Seva Medal for distinguished service on 26 January 2014. The Naval jetty will form the centerpiece for several activities of MILAN 2014 and will also berth many of the participating foreign ships. The jetty has been spruced up and presents a festive look in preparation for the international event.
MILAN 2014 is being held at Port Blair from 04 to 09 February 2014. With the underlying theme of 'Friendship Across the Seas', MILAN 2014 will witness a diverse mix of professional interactions, social events and sporting fixtures. The professional interactions during MILAN encompass sharing of views and ideas on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) and Search and Rescue (SAR) operations at sea. An International Seminar on ‘Maritime Co-operation for HADR Operations’ is on the agenda, in which the Honourable Lieutenant Governor, Andaman and Nicobar Islands will deliver the Inaugural Address. A professional display of the Rapid Action Medical Team of the Indian Air Force on the sidelines of MILAN 14 would aptly showcase the robust air borne medical capabilities of the Indian Armed Forces.
Several events of MILAN 2014 will be open to the public. These include the MILAN display, which will have demonstrations by a sky diving team, motor cycle dare devils, and martial arts and canine demonstration by the local police. An International City Parade will be held along the Marina Park Road with marching contingents from all participating foreign navies, as well as the Indian Armed Forces, a flypast by military aircraft and demonstrations of various military operations. The visiting foreign ships will also be open for visits by school children and local public. MILAN 2014 will culminate with a PASSEX or Passage Exercise of naval manoeuvres at sea by all participating naval ships.