Maldives declines India’s invite to biennial naval exercise Milan

The Financial Express

Shruti Agrawal

Chennai, Feb 27: Maldives has declined India’s invitation to participate in the biennial naval exercise Milan, which starts 6 March, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said on Tuesday.

Maldives has not not given any reason for the decision, Lanba told reporters on the sidelines of an event in New Delhi.

 

India will host navies from at least 16 countries-  Australia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand, Oman, Vietnam, Thailand, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kenya and Cambodia for an eight-day mega naval exercise from 6 March, with the aim to expand regional cooperation and combat unlawful activities in critical sea lanes.

“The interactions during Milan encompass sharing of views and ideas on maritime good order and enhancing regional cooperation for combating unlawful activities at sea,” spokesperson of Indian Navy Capt D K Sharma said.

 

The biennial exercise ‘Milan’ is being organised at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the backdrop of China’s growing military posturing in the Indo-Pacific region and officials said the issue is likely to figure during deliberations among navy chiefs of the participating countries at the event.

China’s Ocean Observatory in Maldives

The observatory location in Makunudhoo, the westernmost atoll in the north and not far from India, will allow the Chinese a vantage point of an important Indian Ocean shipping route.

China’s supposed plan to build such a center in the Maldives would effectively open a Chinese maritime front against India, experts say.

India, the US and several other nations have been pressing for freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea.

Officials said China’s military manoeuvres in the South China Sea may figure during discussions among navy chiefs of the participating countries at the event.