Maldives has declined an Indian invitation to join the MILAN-2018 multilateral naval exercises to be hosted near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands next month, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba told the media on the sidelines of the Indo-Pacific Maritime Dialogue jointly organised by Indian Navy and the National Maritime Foundation.
“We have invited Maldives, but they declined it. They did not give any reasons but I think it is due to the current situation there,” the Navy Chief said.
The Maldives embassy in Delhi later said in a statement that it “is unable to participate in the naval exercise during this time due to the current circumstances of a State of Emergency being in effect for those under investigation for serious crimes. During such a time especially, security personnel are expected to be at a heightened stance of readiness.”
The statement went on to add that “the participation of Maldives Naval Officers would have been as observers only.” “Maldives and India enjoy a long history of excellent defence and military cooperation and it is a tradition that we are confident that will endure and continue indefinitely, “ the statement reiterated.
The biennial MILAN series of exercises had commenced with just four nations in 1995, expanding in scope and complexity. New Delhi had sent an invite to 23 navies for MILAN-2018, of which 16 have confirmed their participation so far.
MILAN-2018 will be conducted from March 6-13, which will include the crucial sea phase from March 11-13. The theme for MILAN-2018 is “Friendship across the Seas”, according to an Indian Navy statement issued last week.
Dismissing concerns over the presence of Chinese warships near Maldives, Admiral Lanba said that Chinese Navy had been conducting anti-piracy patrols in Indian Ocean and India has been monitoring their movements.
“At any given time, they (Chinese) have eight to 10 warships in the region,” the navy chief said, “They have a standard pattern of operating. There has been no change in it.”