In a move that could further escalate the tensions between the two countries, Maldives has declined Indian’s Navy’s invitation for the ‘Milan’ naval exercise. Milan is an eight-day multilateral naval exercise to be held from March 6 to 13 in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
Confirming the development, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said 16 countries will participate in the biennial naval exercise. He also said that Maldives did not provide any reason for the decision.
On the aggressive posturing adopted by China in the Indo-Pacific region, Lanba said there has been no change in the pattern of their deployment.
“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,” he was quoted as saying by ANI.
The decision by Maldives comes amid worries about China’s interference in the affairs of the agitated nation. Maldivian President Abdullah Yameen, who is seen as a pro-China leader had declared an emergency in the country which he recently extended by another 15 days. On the other hand, the opposition leaders including former President Mohamed Nasheed have requested India to intervene to rescue the country from turmoil.
India conveyed its “deep dismay” over the extended state of emergency in Maldives. MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said India hopes that democracy is restored in the island nation and has also urged the Maldives government to release the Chief Justice, a Supreme Court judge and the political prisoners.
The Maldives government has, however, dismissed India’s concerns saying that New Delhi’s public statements were a “clear distortion of facts”.
The countries participating in Milan include Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Oman, Myanmar, New Zealand, Vietnam, Thailand, Tanzania , Indonesia, Kenya and Cambodia.