New Delhi, Feb 27 (PTI) The Maldivian Ambassador here today said Maldives declined India’s invitation to participate in a naval exercise due to the emergency situation in his country but asserted that the two nations enjoy a history of excellent defence and military cooperation, a tradition which they are confident will endure and continue indefinitely.

The remarks by Ahmed Mohamed are seen as an attempt to assuage feelings here after Maldives declined India’s invitation to participate in the eight-day-long mega naval exercise -Milan- beginning March 6, in an apparent snub to New Delhi which has been critical of the Yameen government in view of the emergency in the island nation.

“I 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,” the envoy told PTI while noting that the participation of Maldives naval officers would have been as “observers” only.

“When situations warrant that officers be at their post, back at home, we have held back on deploying them to participate in exercises and training programs held overseas, and as such, not being able to participate in the naval exercise at this time is not extraordinary,” he added.

However, he asserted that Maldives and India enjoy a “long history of excellent defence and military cooperation and it is a tradition that we are confident that will endure and continue indefinitely”.

On the sidelines of an event today, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba told reporters that “Maldives was invited to join the Milan exercise but they have declined”.

Ties between India and Maldives nosedived after Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen declared emergency on February 5 following an order by the country’s Supreme Court to release a group of opposition leaders, who had been convicted in widely criticised trials.

India has issued a number of statements, reacting strongly over the imposition of emergency on February 5 and subsequent extension by a month.

India will host navies from at least 16 countries for the mega naval exercise at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The exercise is taking place in the backdrop of China’s growing military posturing in the Indo-Pacific region and officials indicated that the issue is likely to figure during deliberations at the event. Significantly, there are reports of growing proximity between Male and Beijing. PTI PYK PYK ZMN ZMN

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.