Maldives has declined an invitation to join the MILAN series of multilateral exercises hosted by Indian in March at Andaman and Nicobar.
“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,” Navy Chief Adm Sunil Lanba said. He was speaking to the media on the sidelines of the Indo-Pacific Maritime Dialogue jointly organised by Indian Navy and the National Maritime Foundation.
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.
Adm Lanba dismissed concerns over the presence of Chinese ships near Maldives. He said China has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in Indian Ocean and 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 6-11. This year 23 countries have been invited of which 16 have confirmed so far.
Speaking at the dialogue, Chief of Defence Staff of Sri Lanka Navy Adm R.C. Wijegunaratna dismissed speculations surrounding the Hambantota port. “I can assure that no action whatsoever will be taken which will jeopardize India’s security concerns,” he said.
Adm Wijegunaratna stated 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 armed forces and Navy, he added.
In December last year, Chinese companies took over Hambantota port on long term lease, raising concerns in India.
Maldives Ambassador to India Ahmed Mohamed issued a statement that the country's is unable to participate due to the state of emergency in Maldives.
"My attention has been drawn to media reports stating that the Maldives has declined India's invitation to participate in the biennial naval exercise Milan.
"I would like to clarify that the Maldives 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.
"Also the participation of Maldives Naval Officers would have been as observers only.
"When situations warrant that officers be at their post, back at home, we have held back on deploying them to participate in training programs overseas, and as such, not being able to participate in the naval exercise at this time is not extraordinary.
"The 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."