India tries to earn vanity and reality through multinational military exercise


China Military Online
Li Jiayao
2024-02-28 18:14:29

The MILAN multinational naval exercise kicked off in the Indian port of Visakhapatnam on February 19, with participation of 35 vessels, 50 aircraft and various delegations from over 50 countries. The nine-day exercise will continue until February 27. The in-port phase is from February 19 to 23 and the at-sea phase is from February 24 to 27.


As the host, the Indian Navy attaches great importance to this exercise. According to public information, the Indian Navy deployed nearly 20 vessels, including two aircraft carriers, and around 50 aircraft including MiG-29K and P-8I.


The deployment of two aircraft carriers by India undoubtedly became the highlight of this exercise. Currently, India is the only country in the world to deploy two aircraft carriers simultaneously for the same exercise apart from the US.


Recently, the Indian Navy has crafted several publicity stunts. After the clashes between Houthi militants and the US-UK coalition in the Red Sea, India promptly announced the dispatch of five Indian-version Aegis destroyers to escort ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters. It's noteworthy that the Indian Navy currently has only six Indian-version Aegis destroyers and the Imphal destroyer is not yet fully operational since its commissioning on December 26, 2023. It can be said that almost all of the Indian Navy's advanced destroyer force was dispatched this time. Two aircraft carriers were dispatched to the multinational joint military exercise this time and the Indian Navy has earned enough in terms of vanity and reality.

最近印度海军已连刷了几波存在感:先是胡塞武装和英美联军在红海大打出手后,印度随即宣布派出五艘印度版“宙斯盾”战舰在红海及周边海域护航,要知道印度海军目前只有六艘印度版“宙斯盾”战舰,其中 “因帕尔”号在2023年12月26日服役,还未形成战斗力,可以说此次印度海军护航先进驱逐舰力量几乎是倾巢出动。这次多国联合军演又出动了两艘航母,为了“面子”,也为了“里子”,赚足了眼球。

In terms of vanity, India, as the host of the MILAN multinational naval exercise, has approximately 50 participating countries this year, demonstrating a significant gathering. Deploying all of its two aircraft carriers for the exercise not only demonstrates the host's commitment but also serves as a platform for showcasing the strength of the Indian Navy. With the induction of its homegrown nuclear submarines, the Vikrant aircraft carrier, the Indian version of Aegis destroyers, and indigenous frigates, along with the acquisition of foreign aircraft carriers, new conventional submarines, and anti-submarine patrol aircraft, the Indian Navy has significantly enhanced its capabilities compared to a decade ago. The MILAN multinational naval exercise is evidently an important stage for the Indian Navy to showcase its strength.


The enhancement of naval power also brings India closer to its "great power" dream. In recent years, India's foreign policy has adjusted, actively aligning with the US to build a small circle and participating in the Quad, and creating border hotspots to counterbalance neighboring powers. Despite speculations that India might abandon its "strategic autonomy," actions such as continuing to purchase Russian oil and weapons, and conducting independent naval operations for escorting ships in the Red Sea instead of joining US-led coalitions after the Russia-Ukraine conflict indicate that India is making choices based on its own interests, rather than blindly following the US. This military exercise invited not only countries such as the US, Japan, and Australia, which are gradually getting closer to India but also Russia, which many Western countries have rejected, as well as many Third World countries. India used this occasion to demonstrate its status as a great power.


In terms of reality, the Indian Navy hopes to speed up the efforts to make the Vikrant aircraft carrier fully combat-ready through multinational exercises like MILAN. The Vikrant aircraft carrier returned to the shipyard for phased array radar installation in July last year and completed the installation around November. The MILAN multinational naval exercise is evidently an opportunity for training. Meanwhile, deploying the Vikrant aircraft carrier allows troops on board to gain more experience and enhance their capabilities.


In addition, sending two aircraft carriers is also aimed at increasing public support for India's third aircraft carrier plan. India has long aspired to have three aircraft carriers, with one deployed in the eastern and western Indian Ocean regions respectively, while the third serves as a backup. However, due to various reasons, this dream has yet to materialize. Before the Vikrant aircraft carrier was commissioned, the Indian Navy proposed the second aircraft carrier Vishal with a displacement of over 60,000 tons and equipped with advanced equipment like electromagnetic catapults. However, due to significant technological challenges, this proposal has not been approved. In light of this, the Indian Navy has shifted its focus to a follow-on vessel to Vikrant, which would share the primary design and be more feasible in terms of technology and cost. India currently plans to allocate a budget of USD 4.8 billion for the second aircraft carrier, and if the plan is approved this year, the construction time is expected to be significantly shorter compared to that of the first aircraft carrier, potentially allowing the Indian Navy to possess three aircraft carriers for a period.


Editor's note: Originally published on the, this article is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information and opinions in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of

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