New Delhi: Maldives has declined India’s invitation to participate in the biennial naval exercise Milan, which starts March 6, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said today.
Maldives has not given any reason for the decision, Lanba told reporters on the sidelines of an event here.
Navy sources said over 16 countries have confirmed their participation in the exercise.
“Maldives was sent an invitation to attend ‘Milan’, a multilateral Naval exercise hosted by Indian Navy but it declined the invitation. This exercise will take place from 6-13 March,” Lanba said.
Speaking on Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean, Lanba said, “We are aware of the Chinese activities in Indian Ocean region. Their pattern of deployment has remained same since many years. At any time, there are 8-10 ships in the Indian Ocean.”
The development comes amid Maldives’ increasing proximity with China after India’s stern stance over the declaration of emergency by President Abdulla Yameen.
Yameen declared the emergency on February 5 after the Supreme Court ordered the release of a group of Opposition leaders, who had been convicted in widely criticised trials. Among them was exiled ex-president Mohamed Nasheed. The court said his 2015 trial had been unconstitutional.
Last week, President Abdulla Yameen extended the state of emergency by another 30 days, hours after India had asserted that it was important that the Maldives quickly returns to the path of democracy and the rule of law, expecting that there will be no extension.
New Delhi and Beijing are seen having differing views on the current crisis in the island nation. While Beijing has not taken any public stand, it is believed to be backing the current Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen and has in the past cautioned against any military intervention.
New Delhi, on the other hand, is believed to be sympathetic to former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed who has called for India to intervene militarily to end the crisis.