The Maldives has turned down India’s invitation to take part in Exercise Milan, a biennial multinational naval exercise slated to take place on March 6-13. Its rejection comes amid tensions between the two countries after President Abdulla Yameen declared an emergency on February 5.
Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba spoke about the Maldives’ decision at a press conference in Delhi on Tuesday. ‘They have not given any reason,’ he added.
This year’s Exercise Milan will involve 16 countries from the Indian Ocean littoral. The exercise will, as usual, be held off the coast of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, with on-shore events being conducted at Port Blair.
The Maldives first participated in the 2014 edition of Milan along with Mauritius and Seychelles, the other two archipelago nations from the western Indian Ocean. (The exercise was not held in 2016 because India conducted its International Fleet Review at the same time.)
Relations between India and the Maldives worsened last week after Yameen extended his emergency by 30 days. At the same time, the Chinese news portal Sina.com.cn reported that a fleet of 11 Chinese warships had entered the Indian Ocean.
On Monday, Lanba acknowledged that there was ‘a noticeable increase in the deployment of Chinese ships, submarines and research vessels in the IOR (Indian Ocean Region).’ That same day, The Times of India reported that ‘Maldivian opposition leaders’ were claiming that a planned Joint Ocean Observatory Station in the Maldives could have naval applications.