Maldives rejects India's Milan naval exercise invite: Top 10 developments

Maldives has declined India's invitation to participate in the biennial naval exercise Milan. Representative image
Tensions between the Maldives and India have hit a high point as reports have emerged that the island nation has declined New Delhi's invitation to participate in the biennial naval exercise Milan. So far, according to Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, the Maldives has not given any reason for its decision. 

Indian Navy sources have said that over 16 countries have confirmed their participation in the naval exercise. 

As reported earlier, India will host navies from at least 16 nations for an eight-day naval drill. The aim of the exercise is to expand regional cooperation and combat unlawful activities in critical sea lanes. The biennial naval exercise, Milan, is being organised at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.  

The exercise comes in the backdrop of China's growing military presence and activities in the Indo-Pacific region. Officials have said that the issue is likely to figure during deliberations among navy chiefs of the participating countries.  

Top 10 developments around the Maldives refusal to join Indian naval drills and the political crisis gripping the island nation:

1) Maldives rejects India's invitation: The Maldives was sent an invitation to attend 'Milan', which is a multilateral naval exercise hosted by the Indian Navy, but the island nation declined the invitation, Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said on Tuesday. 

Maldives was sent an invitation to attend 'Milan', a multilateral Naval exercise hosted by Indian Navy but it declined the invitation. This exercise will take place from 6-13 March: Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba in Delhi pic.twitter.com/mjhkQfxDZp

— ANI (@ANI) February 27, 2018

"We are aware of the Chinese activities in Indian Ocean region. Their pattern of deployment has remained same since many years. At any time, there are 8-10 ships in the Indian Ocean," Admiral Lanba added. 

We are aware of the Chinese activities in Indian Ocean region. Their pattern of deployment has remained same since many years. At any time, there are 8-10 ships in the Indian Ocean: Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba in Delhi pic.twitter.com/Y4y5rwhqoc

— ANI (@ANI) February 27, 2018

 
2) China's presence in IOR to be in focus: India will be hosting navies from at least 16 nations for an eight-day mega naval exercise, which will commence on March 6, with the aim of expanding regional cooperation and combating unlawful activities in critical sea lanes.

The biennial exercise, called Milan, is being organised at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The naval drills come in the backdrop of China's growing military presence in the Indo-Pacific region and officials have said that the issue is likely to figure during deliberations among navy chiefs of the participating countries. 

"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 Captain D K Sharma said. 

3) Maldives the odd one out: Countries participating in the exercise include Australia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand, Oman, Vietnam, Thailand, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kenya, and Cambodia, according to Captain Sharma.  

4) Milan is an international event: Over the years, exercise Milan's scale and scope have increased. "From an event of sub-regional context, Milan has now grown into a prestigious international event and encompasses participation by maritime forces from not just the Bay of Bengal and South East Asia but the larger Indian Ocean Region (lOR)," Sharma said. 

The naval exercise was first conducted in 1995 with the participation of just five navies.  

5) Milan fosters cooperation, closer ties: The naval exercise fosters cooperation and professional interactions. Further, according to Captain Sharma, exercise Milan would also provide an opportunity to the participating navies to nurture stronger ties in dealing with various security challenges.  

The exercise was started with the aim of having an effective forum to discuss common concerns in the Indian Ocean Region and for forging deeper cooperation among friendly navies.  

6) Exercise comes days after Chinese ships made a move for Maldives: The exercise comes days after heightened Chinese naval activity was reported in the Indian Ocean. Further, reports had suggested that the Chinese naval vessels involved were headed for the Maldives. 

Last week, a Chinese warship flotilla that had entered the Indian Ocean, and was reportedly heading for the Maldives, turned around and returned to the South China Sea. The development was revealed by highly credible Indian Navy sources. 

News agency Reuters had quoted Chinese website Sina.com to report that eleven Chinese warships had entered the Indian Ocean "amid a constitutional crisis in the tiny tropical island chain of the Maldives now under a state of emergency". 

However, Indian Navy sources said that while a Chinese flotilla, which included a destroyer and a frigate, had indeed crossed into the Indian Ocean through the Sunda Strait, it had turned around and returned to the South China Sea through the Lombok Strait. 

7) Heavy Indian naval presence near Maldives: As of early last week, the Indian Navy was maintaining a heavy presence of warships in the Arabian Sea, including many close to the Maldives.

A Navy announcement had said: "A tri-service maritime exercise, codenamed 'Paschim Lehar', commenced on the Western seaboard on 12 Feb[ruary 20]18. This exercise includes the participation of a large number of ships, submarines, and aircraft from the Western Naval Command of the Indian Navy."

India had more than 40 ships and submarines deployed in Exercise Paschim Lehar, along with a similar number of combat aircraft. 

8) Army's amphibious forces also deployed: The Navy had also announced that the Indian Army's amphibious forces, which are specialist units used to assault and capture island targets, were also participating in the exercise. 

9) Maldives' Opposition facing police action: The political crisis in the Maldives continues. Amid the state of emergency in the island nation, according to a Maldivian Democratic Party member, the police imposed a curfew in an attempt to stop the Opposition's gathering.  

Taking to Twitter, Maldivian Democratic Party member Abdulla Shahid wrote, "Police issues 10:30pm curfew in attempt to halt opposition's gathering momentum. Opposition has been holding large anti- Yameen demostrations throughout the country. More illegalities by Yameen."

10) Maldives crisis in a nutshell: The island nation is facing a political crisis since President Yameen imposed an emergency after refusing to implement a Supreme Court order for freeing imprisoned Opposition leaders. 

On February 20, the Maldives Parliament approved the extension of the state of emergency by 30 days. The development came a day after President Abdulla Yameen sought the extension citing a threat to national security and the constitutional crisis in the country. 

On February 2, the Maldivian Supreme Court had acquitted former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed and former Maldivian Vice-President Ahmed Adeeb, and ordered the reinstatement of 12 other parliamentary members. />
With agency inputs