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India postpones biggest maritime exercise amid coronavirus scare

  • The multi-nation naval exercise was to be staged off the Visakhapatnam coast from 19 March to 28 March
  • The decision to put off the drill was taken after several navies indicated their inability to take part in the exercise

New Delhi: New Delhi: India has decided to postpone its biggest maritime exercise, “Milan", involving around 40 countries in the wake of the spread of the coronavirus infections across the world, two government officials said separately on Tuesday.

The multilateral naval drills were to be held off the Visakhapatnam coast from 18-28 March.

“The exercise is being postponed due to the coronavirus scare. The new dates have not been finalised yet," said the first official cited above.

The decision to put off the drill was taken after several countries indicated their inability to take part in the exercise because of the mounting cases of COVID-19 being detected in different parts of the world, the second official cited above said.

Around 40 countries were scheduled to take part in the exercise though China was not invited to the drills.

“The conduct of MILAN 2020 had generated a very enthusiastic response, with Navies around the world having expressed their desire to participate; and in deference to this interest, the Indian Navy looks forward toward scheduling MILAN at a later convenient date," the Indian navy said in a statement.

“The Indian Navy would like to whole heartedly thank the numerous navies from near and far for having accepted their invitation to participate in MILAN 2020, as also for the unstinted support provided in the run-up to this event," it added.

The exercise is traditionally staged off Port Blair but was moved to the eastern seaboard this year as it offers better opportunities for conducting bigger drills.

The latest edition of Milan was being organised in the backdrop of China’s growing naval activity in the Indian Ocean region.

The countries to whom invitations were sent include Indonesia, France, Mozambique, Sudan, Israel, Qatar, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, Somalia, Kenya, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Myanmar, New Zealand, the US, Tanzania, Comoros, Maldives, Brunei, Philippines, Japan, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Mauritius, Cambodia, Singapore, South Korea, South Africa, Kuwait, Iran, Madagascar, Bangladesh, Russia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Bahrain, UAE and Seychelles.

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