Maldives refuses to participate in 16-nation mega naval exercise

Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba on Tuesday announced that the Indian Ocean archipelago had turned down the offer to join the eight-day long mega naval exercise- Milan- starting 6 March

Though the engagement has been predictably overshadowed by wider geopolitical readings before it even gets underway, it is worth keeping in mind its significance on its own terms as well.

The exercise held once every two years is a friendly drill for India and the navies of the Indian Ocean Rim countries to network socially and through drills. Just $5 a month. The naval exercise in question is Milan 2018. It will be done by Sri Lanka's armed forces and navy, he added.

"We had invited Maldives to participate in Milan but they have declined".

The beiniell navy exercise would be conducted off the coast of Port of Blair between March 6-13.

That leads to the next point: the exercises have also allowed New Delhi to improve interoperability and strengthen ties with individual countries as well, a synergy between multilateral and bilateral relationships often missed in the dichotomy often presented between them.

The disclosure from the Navy comes a week after New Delhi said it was "deeply dismayed" by the extension of the State of Emergency by the government in Male for 30 more days.

"Also the participation of Maldivian Naval Officers would have been as observers only", the embassy noted.

Milan, a biennial exercise, is held at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and this year 16 countries from around the world will participate in it. "At any time, there are 8-10 ships in the Indian Ocean".

Unsurprisingly, the announcement of the details of the exercise this week was predictably overshadowed by broader geopolitical readings. "They did not give any reasons but I think it is due to the current situation there", Navy Chief Adm Sunil Lanba said, while speaking on the sidelines of the Indo-Pacific Maritime Dialogue jointly organised by the Indian Navy and the National Maritime Foundation. Some media outlets stated that certain engagements were centered around China and the South China Sea and framed the MILAN Exercises around other developments such as the emerging Quad, without offering much in the way of specifics.

The subtext of the exercise has been in pursuance of New Delhi's belief that it is a "net security provider" in the region, a description also used by the US.

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