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Naval heroes win Port Blair’s heart

By Liz Mathew, IANS

Port Blair : As hundreds of spectators watched with bated breath, Indian armed forces personnel presented here a spectacular performance – in the sky and the ocean – to mark the finale of a five-day naval exercise in the Andaman Sea.

It was a bright, sunny Tuesday with a fresh breeze from the aquamarine sea. Marina beach was bustling with the audience seated on both sides of the beach road. Then came the rumble of aircraft that flew past to lead the parade.

Twelve countries participated in Milan 2008, a biennial congregation of navies from the Asia Pacific littoral countries.

At first it appeared that the marine commandos (Marcos), who left everyone spellbound when they slithered down to sea with their inflatable Jamini boat from an MI 8 helicopter, had stolen the show.

They descended on the waters in their parachutes and rapidly proceeded to a dummy oil rig placed in the middle of the sea and destroyed it – displaying courage, determination, extraordinary physical fitness and efficiency in launching an assault.

After the successful operation on the dummy oilrig, which was blasted off with a bomb, the Marcos were picked up by the same helicopter. The audience held its breath as the helicopter took a full round of the area with two Marcos hanging on to the rope with which they were extracted.

Then the awesome Sukhoi-30 aircraft, which were flown down from Bareli, left the spectators speechless with their mind-boggling performances.

No one blinked during the aerobatic performance of the skydivers, who were dropped from an AN-32 aircraft. The display began when they dived out thousands of feet above, colourful parachutes strapped to their backs. Many graceful pirouettes and somersaults later, they landed precisely at the point indicated.

The Tornadoes, the record winning team of motorcycle dispatch riders, excited the spectators so much that some almost jumped into their paths for close-up photographs. Navy personnel had to come running and clear the road.

As the bright day drew to a close, the tropical evening was lit up by fireworks from the five ships anchored near Marina beach and Rose Islands to mark the end of a magical parade.

Naval cadets from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand took part, and so did the Andaman and Nicobar Island police, NCC cadets and schoolchildren.

The Milan exercise is seen as a platform for forging mutual trust, cooperation and understanding between the navies of the Asia Pacific region. It did more – it strengthened the bonds of friendship across the seas.