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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday lauded the Indian Navy on the conduct of the biggest ever repatriation operation "Operation Samudra Setu" which brought home almost 4,000 Indian citizens stranded in various countries in the Indian Ocean region.

In his address to the three day Naval commanders conference that began on Wednesday, Singh also complimented the Indian Navy for having undertaken “Mission Sagar," through which medical aid was provided to the countries of South West Indian Ocean Region ie Maldives, Mauritius, Comoros, Seychelles and Madagascar. The minister also acknowledged and thanked all the Naval Commands for setting up quarantine facilities to aid the civil administration in managing covid-19.

The conference is taking place against the backdrop of a border row with China in eastern Ladakh. The focus of the meet includes reviewing the Indian Navy's operational readiness as well as issues relating to India's security interests in the Indo-Pacific, a region where China has been rapidly expanding its military presence, an official said.

All possible security challenges including those from China in the Indian Ocean Region are to be discussed at the meet, the official added. The Indian Navy has deployed a number of its warships and submarines in the Indian Ocean Region to send a message to China following escalation of the border dispute. The Indian Ocean, considered the backyard of the Indian Navy, is critical to India's strategic interests.

In his remarks, Singh also appreciated the Indian Navy’s efforts to effectively carry out Mission Based Deployment to protect maritime interests by deploying naval ships and aircraft at major and sensitive locations, a statement from the Indian Navy said.

“Since these deployments were started in 2017, they have facilitated enhanced Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), provided swift Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) to the Indian Ocean Region littorals and security to the international maritime community," the statement said.

Despite financial constraints, the government had invoked emergency powers to meet the emergent requirements of three services, the minister added.

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