Every two years the Indian Navy hosts the MILAN Exercise, an international maritime congregation of regional navies of the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean regions, under the theme “Friendship across the Seas”. The MILAN 2018 was held during 6-13 March 2018 in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, with activities ranging from international seminar, multilateral naval exercise and tabletop exercise, to parades, cultural shows and food festival, to sports events.
The Royal Thai Navy is no stranger to this biannual naval gathering, and has continuously participated in every MILAN exercise since its inception in 1995, when only India, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Sri Lanka were represented. MILAN has gone from strength to strength since then, and this year delegations from India and 16 other countries joined the 10th edition of the event; with warships from India, Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand taking part in the exercise.
From the Royal Thai Navy, HTMS Narathiwat under the leadership of Rear Admiral Arkom Tang-On, Deputy Commander of the Third Naval Area Command of Thailand, in his capacity as the Commanding Task Unit, and Commander Rachasak Maipool, the ship’s Commanding Officer, visited Andaman and Nicobar Islands to participate in activities related to MILAN 2018. Captain Sitthichai Tangjai, Defense and Naval Attaché, Royal Thai Embassy, New Delhi, also attended the MILAN 2018.
The Thai naval delegation participated in the International Maritime Seminar under the theme “In Pursuit of Maritime Good Order – Need for Information Sharing Apparatus” as well as the Table Top Exercise on “Enhancing Regional Cooperation for Combating Unlawful Activities at Sea”. HTMS Narathiwat also took part in the multilateral joint exercise aiming to promote interoperability among the Indian Navy and visiting navies of the region as well as to exchange best practices. India’s Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba presided over the inaugural session and the Press Conference, with Vice Admiral Bimal Verma, Commander-in-Chief, Andaman & Nicobar Command, as the chief host.
On 8 March, RADM Arkom called on VADM Bimal Verma along with leaders of other visiting naval delegations. In the evening, Honourable Lieutenant Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Admiral DK Joshi (Retd), hosted a reception at Raj Niwas official residence, Port Blair, for visiting delegates. The Thai naval delegation also actively contributed to the Cultural Evening and Food Festival, with the performances of “Muay Thai” or the world-renowned Thai boxing, and the Thai Long Drum Dance. Thai food such as Tomyam soup, Som Tam salad, Thai Green Curry, and Pad Thai noodle, all cooked by HTMS Narathiwat’s crew, added exotic experiences to the food festival.
As part of MILAN 2018, the people of Port Blair were also treated with the International City Parade, and officers and sailors of HTMS Narathiwat marched along with other participating paraders on the city avenue. The ship was also open for visits by the city folks at Haddo Wharf, including the visit of a group of Indian youths of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) unit from local schools in Port Blair.
HTMS (His Thai Majesty’s Ship) Narathiwat was named after the province of Narathiwat, the southernmost province of Thailand bordering Malaysia. An Off-shore Patrol Vessel (OPV), she has the crew of 146 officers and sailors onboard for this mission to India, with 50 commissioned officers, 81 non-commissioned officers, and 15 enlisted sailors.