President Ram Nath Kovind will review the Indian Navy fleet at a ceremony in Visakhapatnam on February 21, which will see the participation of more than 60 warships and submarines as well as around 50 aircraft, officials familiar with the development said Friday. The high-profile presidential fleet review will be followed by the multinational naval exercise in Milan from February 25 to March 4, for which India has invited 45 countries, the officials said.
A fleet review is usually conducted once during the term of a president, who is the supreme commander of the armed forces. The Navy has conducted 11 Presidential Fleet Reviews (PFR) since independence. This year’s event will commemorate 75 years of the country’s independence, with the theme Indian Navy: 75 Years of Service to the Nation.
“As part of the PFR, all participating units will be anchored in a formation of four specific columns. The president will review all ships by ‘steaming’ them, embarked on a navy ship designated the ‘presidential yacht’,” one of the officials quoted above said. Naval aircraft will fly over the formation and return their salute.
The Milan exercise, a biannual event, is expected to be the biggest since its inaugural edition in Port Blair in 1995, when only four foreign countries took part in the exercises: Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
“Since then, the exercise has grown by leaps and bounds in terms of the number of participants and the complexity of the exercises,” a second official said. The response from friendly foreign countries has been encouraging, he added. Of the 45 nations invited, approximately 35 have confirmed their participation. China and Pakistan were never invited to the exercises.
“The purpose of the exercise is to hone operational skills, imbibe best practices and procedures, and enable maritime doctrine learning through professional interaction between friendly navies.”
The exercise was traditionally staged off Port Blair, but has been moved to the east coast as it offers better bandwidth to conduct larger exercises. The 2020 edition of Milan, which was to take place outside Visakhapatnam, did not take place that year due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The exercise will be held against the backdrop of China’s growing naval activity in the Indian Ocean region.