Maldives Declines Indian Invite for Joint Exercise, Analysts Cite China as Cause

© Sputnik / Irina RyapolovaMale, the capital of Maldives
Male, the capital of Maldives - Sputnik International
The Maldives’ rejection of India’s invitation for a multilateral military exercise without conveying any strong reason is being considered the biggest rebuff by the Indian Ocean archipelago since New Delhi started exerting pressure on the Abdulla Yameen government to withdraw the state of emergency.

New Delhi (Sputnik) — The Maldives has rejected an Indian invitation to participate in a friendly joint military exercise named "Milan" (meaning "meeting" in Hindi) in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Chief of the Indian Navy, Admiral Sunil Lanba said that the Maldives will not take part in Milan — the biennial joint exercise of navies of the Indian Ocean-RIM Association (IORA), scheduled to be based in Port Blair from March 6 to 13. India has reportedly invited a total of 23 countries out of which 16 have confirmed their participation so far.

"We have invited the Maldives, but they have declined it. They did not give any reasons but I think it is due to the current situation there," Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said. He was speaking on the sidelines of the Indo-Pacific Maritime Dialogue jointly organized by the Indian Navy and the National Maritime Foundation in New Delhi's Manekshaw Center.

Admiral Lanba, however, dismissed apprehensions over the presence of Chinese warships near the Maldives. "They have a standard pattern of operating. There has been no change in it," Admiral Lanba said. He said that India has been closely monitoring the movement of Chinese vessels in the Indian Ocean Region.

Meanwhile, the Maldives Ambassador to India Ahmed Mohamed has issued a statement clarifying that country is unable to participate in the joint exercise due to the state of emergency in the Maldives.

"The Embassy 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," Ahmed Mohamed said in a statement.

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 ambassador added.

However, as the rejection of the invitation comes close on the heels of the Maldives ignoring India's repeated appeals to roll back the state of emergency, an expert says that it may be considered an indication of the deteriorating rapport between India and the current atmosphere in the Maldives. Defense expert Major General (Rtd) P K Sehgal of the Indian Army says that the development is indicative of the increasing influence of China over the island nation.

"This clearly is a signal of deterioration of Indian influence and result of aggressive diplomacy pursued by China in the Indian Ocean region. This is critical and risky for the peace and tranquility of the region and India seems to have a strategic disadvantage at this juncture," Maj Gen (Rtd) P K Sehgal told Sputnik.

The former Indian Army officer, however, says that the present regime in the Maldives is becoming excessively unpopular and that it is surviving only because of the support of the police and the military.

"At this juncture for India to intervene militarily is not advised. The ideal situation for India should be to retrain its moves and let the popular discontent within the Maldives build up further," Maj Gen (Rtd) P K Sehgal added.

Another Strategic expert on foreign affairs, Brahma Cgellaney echoed the similar concerns on the state of affairs in the Maldives.

The Maldives was plunged into a political crisis when the government led by Prime Minister Abdulla Yameen clamped down on top judges after the apex court dismissed the conviction of opposition leaders including the exiled former Prime Minister Mohamad Nasheed. In an apparent attempt to quell the opposition's protests, Yameen clamped an emergency which he recently extended by 30 more days, prompting India to sternly call for the immediate restoration of people's freedom.

The views and opinions voiced by the speakers are those of their own and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik's stance.

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