After ignoring India's repeated appeals to roll back the emergency it imposed earlier this month, Maldives has declined New Delhi's invitation to participate in a naval exercise next month.
The biennial naval exercise, that was first held in 1995 with just five navies, aims to expand regional cooperation and combat unlawful activities in critical sea lanes.
Australia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand and Oman are among the countries that have confirmed their participation in the joint activity that starts March 6 in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Besides fostering cooperation through naval exercises and professional interactions, Capt Sharma said 'Milan' will also provide an opportunity to the participating navies to nurture stronger ties in dealing with various security challenges.
India, the US and several other nations have been pressing for freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea. Milan is a multilateral naval exercise hosted by the Indian Navy under the aegis of the Andaman and Nicobar Command.
The biennial event is held off the coast of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and features professional exercises and seminars, social events and sporting fixtures between participating nations. Milan was first held in 1995. Apart from the Indian Navy, the navies of Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand participated in the inaugural edition. Seventeen nations, including India, participated in Milan 2014 making it the biggest edition of the event ever.
The next edition of Milan will be held from 6-13 March 2018 and will witness the participation of navies from 23 foreign countries - Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Kenya, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Oman, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand and Vietnam, writes Wikipedia.