The focus during the Milan exercise, being held from February 4 to 9, will be on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) but issues like maritime terrorism, piracy and poaching will also be discussed during the professional interactions.
The participants are Australia, Bangladesh, Philippines, Cambodia, New Zealand, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Kenya and Tanzania.
"Milan basically is a biennial congregation of littoral navies, hosted by the Indian Navy in the A&N Islands, to foster bonds of 'friendship across the seas', boost interoperability and share views on common maritime issues,'' said an officer.
"Milan began in 1995 to catalyze cooperation in the maritime domain. From four navies then, it has grown to include 16 navies now,'' he added. Four other countries — South Africa, Vietnam, Brunei and Mozambique— were also invited for the event but could not make it due to different reasons.
The Navy says an important priority in the Asia-Pacific region is the protection of sea lanes around Malacca Strait since around 60,000 ships sail through it every year, transporting around 30% of the world trade in goods.
For India, the stakes are clearly high, with the strategic A&N islands dominating the approaches to Malacca Strait. India's central location in Indian Ocean, astride these major commercial routes and energy lifelines, makes it a major stakeholder in the region's security and stability.