Milan 2024: Uniting the world’s navies for sake of global security

This exercise led by India will help strengthen cooperation and friendship among the navies of different countries and highlight India’s dedication in working together for maritime safety and security in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Milan-2024 also provides a great opportunity for the world’s maritime community to come together to ensure that the oceans are safe and secure.

Of late, India has been successful in bringing together countries that do not usually get along, so that they can work unitedly. For instance, during last year’s G20 meeting in New Delhi, it managed to get everyone to agree on a common agenda. And, in 2024, India will host a naval drill that will see both the US and Russia participating. The exercise—which has been planned to take place on India’s eastern coast in Visakhapatnam—is designed to boost cooperation among the 51 participating navies, in addition to preparing them for combating maritime security challenges.

The 12th edition of India’s leading Multilateral Naval Exercise, called ‘Milan’—which means ‘meeting’, ‘gathering’, or ‘confluence of people’ in Hindi—scheduled for February 19-27, will include naval vessels from both Russia and the US. This will mark the first such instance since the beginning of Moscow’s Special Military Operation in Ukraine that military assets from these two major global powers will collaborate with, rather than confront, each other on a unified platform.


India’s blue water navy emphasised the importance of strong collaboration among the naval forces of various countries to address major security issues. This includes responding to recent attacks on civilian ships by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea and attempts at piracy by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea. A blue water navy is capable of operating globally, far from its home bases, demonstrating extensive maritime reach and power projection beyond its regional waters.

Vice-Admiral Tarun Sobti of the Indian Navy has gone on record saying that no single navy can address maritime threats independently and that collaboration is essential. He highlighted that the Milan-2024 exercise is crucial for building stronger alliances in jointly managing security challenges. Milan has come a long way in terms of size, scope and complexity since it started in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in 1995 when only four foreign navies took part. Over the past two years, the event has seen a significant increase in participation—from 39 countries in 2022 to 51 countries this year.

Fifteen foreign naval vessels, including those from Russia, will participate alongside the Indian Navy’s fleet. The exercise will also feature 50 naval aircraft demonstrating their aerial capabilities over the seas. This year’s exercise, for the first time, will showcase both of India’s aircraft-carriers, the INS Vikrant and INS Vikramaditya, as well as submarines, corvettes, frigates and missile destroyers.

  1. Corvettes, with a crew of 30-100 personnel, typically displace 500-2,000 tons and are armed with torpedoes, anti-ship missiles and guns. They are ideal for coastal patrol and surveillance
  2. Frigates, with crew size ranging from 100-200, displace around 2,000-5,000 tons and are equipped with anti-air, anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons, including missiles and guns. They serve as escort vessels and are capable of blue-water operations
  3. Destroyers, which accommodate 200-300 crew members, displace 5,000-9,000 tons, carry a wide array of weaponry, including anti-aircraft, anti-missile, anti-ship and anti-submarine systems and are designed for extended missions and multiple types of warfare.

The Milan-2024 exercise is split into two parts:

  • Activities at the port (Harbour Phase), and
  • Activities at sea (Sea Phase)

The first part is designed to encourage cultural exchange between the participating countries. This will include an International Maritime Seminar; a parade at RK Beach; an exhibition called ‘Swavalamban’ (‘self-dependence’) hosting ‘Make in India’ products; expert talks on naval topics; get-togethers for young sailors; and various sports competitions. Additionally, there will be a chance for leaders from different countries to hold meetings—both one-on-one and in groups—during the main event. There will also be social gatherings, fun activities and trips to local attractions and cultural spots.

During the sea phase, ships, submarines and patrol aircraft from India and other friendly countries will take part. This phase includes big group movements, besides high-level air defence, submarine hunting and ship attack exercises. It is a chance for navies to learn from each other and gain knowledge in maritime operations through collaboration.

Significance of Milan-2024:

  1. Milan-2024 is more than just as an event where the Indian Navy meets navies from other friendly countries. It is important to remember that the ocean is a place where many countries come together, allowing for all sorts of exchanges—from trade and business to cultural and military interactions. So, navies often lead their countries’ efforts in diplomatic and international relations. Warships, often called ‘Man of War’, are seen as the best representatives a country can have overseas and navies are expected to play a diplomatic role. However, turning this idea into reality requires the right equipment, technology, resources and skills. The Indian Navy deserves credit for quickly developing these capabilities.
  1. With high importance being placed on keeping the seas safe, Milan-2024 is a great example of countries joining forces to tackle shared maritime challenges and work towards a safer and more prosperous sea environment. India’s increasing strategic role in the Indo-Pacific Region (IOR) plays a big part in this. By sharing its knowledge and resources, the Indian Navy greatly helps in achieving the common goal of keeping sea routes open and supporting a maritime system based on rules.
  1. Milan-2024 is a great chance for India to show off its self-reliance in defence, especially through the Indian Navy, which leads in ‘Make in India’ initiatives and India’s push for making its own defence equipment. Starting in the late-1950s, India has now joined a small group of countries that can make their own aircraft-carriers, nuclear submarines and advanced warships. Currently, India is working on over 45 ships and submarines that are being designed and made within the country. A key highlight is the locally made aircraft-carrier, the INS Vikrant. The defence sector is also encouraged to boost its exports. The ‘Swavalamban’ Exhibition will be the perfect platform for defence technology companies to showcase their achievements, promote their products and, most importantly, gather and share ideas for further development.
  2. Another advantage is the interaction between the navy and local communities. This includes benefits for the local economy, tourism and cultural understanding. Such activities as parades, sports events and demonstrations, along with shopping, visiting tourist attractions and cultural sites, allow for local people’s involvement.

In his speech at the UN General Assembly on September 25, 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had emphasised that oceans were a shared treasure and we should use their resources responsibly, not wastefully. He also highlighted the importance of oceans for international trade and the need to protect them from harmful competition and exclusion. The Indian Navy has a big role in addressing these global challenges.

As we move into an uncertain future, the Indian Navy has many tasks: to protect India’s interests, help maintain regional peace and contribute to world peace. With advanced technology, strong partnerships and skilled personnel, the Indian Navy is well-prepared. However, facing the complex challenges of the future will require the navy to be resilient, adaptable and good at working with others. Events like Milan are perfect opportunities to plan for the future.

Since starting in 1995, Milan has grown into a huge navy event. This growth matches India’s increasing importance and power in the world. Milan-2024 demonstrates India’s efforts at including all countries and promoting the peace. The event is guided by the idea of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (or ‘the world is one family’).

This exercise led by India will help strengthen cooperation and friendship among the navies of different countries and highlight India’s dedication in working together for maritime safety and security in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Milan-2024 also provides a great opportunity for the world’s maritime community to come together to ensure that the oceans are safe and secure.

Views expressed in the article are author’s own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Business Upturn