Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma has stressed the Navy's commitment to ensuring a stable and secure regional environment for the “economic development and social uplift of the masses” in India's neighbourhood. “We carry out coordinated patrols with some of our neighbours. We have also been undertaking EEZ [exclusive economic zone] surveillance on request from some governments.”

“Oceans today are not expanses of water that divide continents, but maritime highways that link nations,” Admiral Verma on Friday told delegates from 14 countries who are participating in Milan-2012, the eighth edition of a biennial initiative of the Navy to forge working-level jointmanship and interoperability among the Navies of the region. The aim is to ensure faster humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response, better counter piracy and anti-poaching measures and prevention of contraband smuggling and human trafficking.

Referring to the Indian Ocean Region as a ‘critical economic highway' for a predominant chunk of its oil, cargo and container traffic, Admiral Mehta cautioned that any challenge to this energy and trade seaway could lead to major conflict. That would hit regional and global economies. “Ensuring energy security is, therefore, a major maritime issue of common concern,” he said in his keynote address at a seminar on ‘Capacity-building through Maritime Cooperation.'

The pervasive enemy today was not ‘some belligerent nation-state,' but malevolent non-state actors. “There is more to fighting piracy than military action,” he added, calling for a collective initiative to combat the menace, which was a “spill-over of governance deficit, myriad socio-economic issues and lawlessness.”

Lieutenant-General (retd.) Bhopinder Singh, Lieutenant-Governor of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, said in his address that current economic challenges demanded maritime interdependencies. “Our combined efforts can postulate joint doctrines… to prevent, deter, limit and localise conflicts and disruptions to the global system that we all rely upon.”

This edition of Milan is the largest since its inception in 1995, with representatives from Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles participating in it. Of these, Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles are first-timers at the event, which will draw to a close on February 6.

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