Amidst political turmoil, Maldives has declined Indian government's offer to join its navy's multilateral exercise, Milan, scheduled for March in the Andaman sea.
“We invited Maldives, but they declined it. They did not give any reasons but I think it is due to the current situation there,” Navy Chief Adm Sunil Lanba said, while speaking on the sidelines of the Indo-Pacific Maritime Dialogue jointly organised by the Indian Navy and the National Maritime Foundation.
Maldives has been regular participants of Exercise Milan in its previous editions
Milan is a congregation of littoral navies conducted biennially by Indian Navy under the aegis of the Andaman and Nicobar Command. It began in 1995 with participation of four countries.
Maldives has been opposition to India's repeated appeal to withdraw the declaration of emergency in the island nation and follow the order of Supreme Court and restore democracy. Despite New Delhi's appeal, Maldives government has even extended the state of emergency citing security concerns.
Navy Chief Admiral Lanba, however, dismissed concerns over the presence of Chinese ships near Maldives.
He said that China has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in Indian Ocean and that India has been monitoring their movements. “They have a standard pattern of operating; there has been no change in it,” he said.
Milan is scheduled to be held from March 6 to 11. This year, 23 countries have been invited of which 16 have confirmed so far.
Speaking on the occasion, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman insisted on freedom of navigation and that it should be never be challenged, without mentioning Chinese navy's dominated behaviour in the South China sea.
Meanwhile, speaking at the dialogue, Chief of Defence Staff of Sri Lanka Navy Admiral R.C. Wijegunaratna talked about rumours on Hambantota port related to Chinese navy's activities, while stating that their leaders had assured India that Sri Lanka would not enter into any military alliances for the security of Hambabtota. It will be done by Sri Lanka's armed forces and navy, he added.
“I can assure that no action whatsoever will be taken which will jeopardize India’s security concerns,” he said.
In December last year Chinese companies took over Hambantota port on a long term lease which has raised concerns in Indian establishment.