NEW DELHI: Maldives has declined India's invitation to take part in the 16-nation naval exercises. The island nation, which is undergoing political turmoil, did not give any reason for its decision. The move also comes at a time when Maldivian president Abdulla Yameen is seen to be taking his country closer to China in return for infrastructure loans under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The naval exercise in question is Milan 2018. These exercises have been organised by India once every two years. Navies of a number of nations in the Indo-Pacific region are invited to take part in the joint security exercises. This year, navies and coast guards from 16 countries will take part in the exercises in the seas off the coast of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, close to the entrance to the Malacca Strait. Milan 2018 will take place for eight days, from March 6 to 13.
Indian Navy chief, Admiral Sunil Lanba, confirmed that India had extended an invitation to Maldives, which lies in the Indian Ocean, not too far from India's shores. In what it probably intended as a snub to India, the Maldivian government declined the invitation.
The Abdullah Yameen dispensation has been miffed ever since India referred to the emergency he imposed as unconstitutional. China meanwhile has engaged in posturing of its own that appears to favour Yameen.
Yameen had recently, and suddenly, signed his country on to Chinese President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative. The project, which involves infrastructure building along one land corridor and a naval corridor, using massive loans from the Chinese. This has sparked accusations of debt trap diplomacy, as has been seen with Sri Lanka's struggle over the Hambantota Port, and Pakistan's rising debt over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
(With inputs from ANI)