Global community must collectively aspire for peace in this age of democratic & rules-based world order: Raksha Mantri

Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh has called upon the international community to collectively aspire for peace in this age of democratic and rules-based world order, where individual countries proactively collaborate for shared peace & prosperity. He was addressing the formal opening ceremony of the 12th edition of the multi-nation Exercise MILAN in Visakhapatnam on February 21, 2024. Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar and a distinguished gathering of Ministers, Ambassadors, Chiefs of Navies and representatives of Maritime Forces from over 50 friendly countries were present on the occasion.

Sharing his insights on the concept of ‘peace’, the Raksha Mantri asserted that the absence of wars and conflicts is the most irreducible minimum element of peace. He spoke of “negative peace” which, he said, often stems from dominance or hegemony, where one power imposes its will upon others. He said such peace, not backed by fairness and justice, is what physicists and economists call “unstable equilibrium”.

Shri Rajnath Singh elaborated on what he called “cold peace” where parties do not kill each other in the open, but do their best to undermine one another. He described cold peace as merely an interval between direct conflicts.

The Raksha Mantri was of the view that the concept of positive peace goes beyond the mere absence of direct military conflict and encompasses broader notions of security, justice, and cooperation. “The positive peace is the shared peace of one and all, with the cooperation of one and all. There is no Indian peace or Australian peace or Japanese peace, rather it is the shared global peace. This sentiment was also eloquently set forth by our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi when he said ‘This is not an era of war. But it is one of dialogue and diplomacy’,” he said.

Shri Rajnath Singh emphasised that the Armed Forces play a dual role – conduct wars as well as maintain peace and good order. “Historically, Navies and Armies were established and maintained with the primary objective of extending political power through military conquests. Our historical experience informs us that the Armed Forces also play a significant role in preserving peace. It is seen in concepts and practices such as deterrence, conflict prevention, peace-keeping, and also in various humanitarian assistance efforts especially during disasters,” he said.

The Raksha Mantri stressed that in this evolution of the nature of the Armed Forces, international military exercises have emerged as crucial mechanisms for fostering friendship, understanding, cooperation, and military interoperability among friendly nations within the framework of a democratic world order. He termed MILAN 2024 as one such attempt to build the much-needed fraternal bonds across the oceans and mountains.

While Shri Rajnath Singh batted for peace and shared goodness, he assured that “we will not shrink from countering any threat that undermines our collective well-being, piracy and trafficking included”. He referred to the recent events in the Western Indian Ocean which have brought to the fore some pressing challenges in the maritime domain, ranging from attacks on the merchant shipping to piracy and hijacking attempts.

“India continues its proactive engagement and has been maintaining a sustained presence in the region to ensure safety and security of all shipping, irrespective of the Flag on the ship and the nationality of the crew. It is our steadfast resolve to be the First Responder and the Preferred Security Partner in the Indian Ocean Region, and for the peace, stability and prosperity of the wider Indo-Pacific,” said the Raksha Mantri. He added that India will continue to play the role of a Vishwa Mitra in forging meaningful partnerships that make the world a truly connected and equitable habitat for the humanity as a whole.

In his address, Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar stated that underpinned by Government of India’s vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR), MILAN encapsulates and rejuvenates the unrelenting spirit of ‘Cohesion, Camaraderie and Collaboration.’ From five IOR navies in 1995 to 50 navies across the Indo-Pacific today, MILAN reflects the growing stature and increasing importance of such collective and cooperative endeavours in the maritime domain, he said.

The Chief of the Naval Staff informed that the harbour phase, which is underway, has seen insightful discussions through Subject Matter Expert Exchanges and Table Top Exercises. He stated that while the International Maritime Seminar scheduled over next two days will provide senior commanders a platform to exchange ideas on crucial maritime challenges and opportunities, adding that young officers have been honing their sailing, submarine rescue and damage control skills at training simulators here.

Admiral R Hari Kumar added that the sea phase commencing on February 24 will witness Indian & foreign warships sailing in unison and participating in an array of operational drills pushing the collective boundaries and refining the skills together. “These are not merely naval exercises, but a testament to the collective expertise and strength we bring to the fore as maritime nations,” he added.

On the occasion, the Raksha Mantri also launched NISHAR communication terminal. As communication forms an important link in achieving interoperability, Indian Navy has developed MITRA terminals with Nishar application to connect all friendly partner navies.

MILAN Village, a rendezvous of culture, tradition and cuisine of nations participating in the Multilateral Naval Exercise MILAN 2024, was also inaugurated by the Raksha Mantri. The vibrant tapestry of cultures promoted by delicacies from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Vietnam along with a wide variety of Indian cuisine delighted everyone. Handlooms, handicrafts, gems, crystals, artefacts and souvenirs from across the world made memorable takeaways for the visitors. The cultural performances and dances by artists also enthralled the visitors.

MILAN Village will remain open from 3 PM to 10 PM from 21st to 23rd February for personnel of Friendly Foreign Countries, defence personnel and their families.

The Maritime Technical Exposition MTEX-24 in association with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) was inaugurated by Shri Rajnath Singh. MTEX-24 highlights India’s push towards self-reliance in the defence sector. It showcases the latest advancements in naval technology viz shipbuilding, communication systems, cybersecurity, and sustainable energy solutions. Featuring presentations, demonstrations and exhibits, the event serves as a platform for forging partnerships and accelerating the development of cutting-edge technologies crucial for maritime defence.

The exposition displays products developed by the Indian industry and has the participation of major players from the Indian defence production viz Bharat Dynamics Ltd, Larsen & Toubro Ltd, Bharat Electronics, Elecronics Corporation of India Ltd, and Garden Reach Shipbuilders Ltd. In addition, defence start-ups such as Sagar Defence Engineering Ltd, Daksha Unmanned Systems Ltd, Saif Automation Ltd have displayed their innovative solutions. Further, defence PSUs and Indian Naval organisations such as DRDO, the Indian Naval Incubation Centre for Artificial Intelligence (INICAI), Weapon and Electronic System Engineering Establishment (WESEE) are showcasing their equipment and innovations. An equipment catalogue of the products displayed by various companies was released by Hon’ble Raksha Mantri.

The MTEX-24 is open from 21st to 23rd February from 10:30 AM to 6 PM. This three-day exposition fosters collaboration and knowledge exchange between industry leaders, researchers, and defence professionals thereby driving technological advancements and strengthening professional relations with friendly foreign navies. By facilitating knowledge exchange and promoting self-reliance, MTEX 24 will propel the Indian maritime industry forward, contributing to a more secure and prosperous future.

MILAN is a biennial multilateral naval exercise held under the aegis of the Eastern Naval Command. This edition is the largest and more complex than previous editions, with the participation of Indian ships and 16 foreign warships, one Maritime Patrol Aircraft and delegations from friendly countries. The exercise commenced on February 19, 2024 and will culminate on February 27, 2024 post the sea phase.

‘MILAN’ means ‘a meeting of confluence and its motto – ‘Camaraderie Cohesion Collaboration’ symbolises the enduring spirit of international maritime cooperation. The exercise brings together like-minded nations that train and operate jointly towards establishing the regional synergy needed to achieve the shared objective of peace and prosperity, aligned with the Prime Minister’s vision of Security & Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).