China not like-minded, so excluded from drill: Navy Chief

New Delhi: General Dalbir Singh, Chief of the Army Staff, Navy Chief R K Dhowan and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha paying homage at Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate in New Delhi on the occasion of Army Day on Thursday. PTI Photo /PIB(PTI1_15_2015_000144B)

New Delhi, Dec 3 (IANS) Weary about China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean Region, India has refrained from inviting China to a mega international naval exercise Milan scheduled next year, Indian Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh said on Tuesday.

At Milan, a total 41 countries have been invited, excluding China and Pakistan.

On China being excluded from the exercise, Singh said that only “like-minded nations” are invited in the exercise.

Sources in the security establishment later said China was not invited to Milan exercise as India does not want to legitimise its presence in the Indian Ocean region as China can later claim that it has participated in exercises in the region.

About China, he also said that Indian Navy two months ago asked a Chinese research vessel to leave after it was found in the Indian waters near Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. “Our stand is clear. If you have to work in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), then you have to take our permission,” Singh said ahead of the Navy Day celebration on Wednesday.

He said that India is keenly watching China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean region. “China has increased presence in the Indian Ocean since 2008. We are keenly watching them. My concern is that maritime interest, no action of our adversary should impact India’s interest,” Singh said.

“There are Chinese oceanographic research vessels in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone. On an average seven to eight vessels are present near this zone. They are here sometimes to carry out mining, sometime as anti-piracy squad,” said Singh, adding the Indian Navy carries out whatever prompt action is needed.

With aim to enhance interoperability between the navies of the region, Singh said that last year the Indian Navy hosted the 10th edition of Milan at Port Blair.

Taking this initiative further, in March next year, the Indian Navy would be hosting Milan 2 as a multilateral exercise at Visakhapatnam. The event is scheduled to witness participation from around 41 countries, bringing together maritime forces from all over our region and beyond.

Milan held every two years off Port Blair since 1995 when less than a dozen navies of the Indian Ocean region took part. Since then, the prestigious event has grown in stature and 41 nations will now come together for the exercise at Visakhapatnam.

The Navy Chief said the venue was shifted to this city given the bigger magnitude of the event and the eastern seaboard provided more space and depth for carrying out exercise at a big scale as compared to seas off Port Blair.

As regards coastal security to prevent a repeat of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, he said the Navy along with the Coast Guard and the marine police of littoral states and other stake holders recently held a pan India exercise Sea Vigil to test the efficacy of the systems.

Admiral Karambir Singh also stressed that the India Navy is fully aware about Pakistan’s intention in the Indian Ocean region.

“We also know about the intelligence input about that terror groups planning to enter India through sea routes. We have put an adequate defence mechanism to thwart any threats,” Singh said.

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