Maldives security personnel are expected to be at a heightened stance of readiness, the embassy in New Delhi said as it explained why officers were skipping a navy exercise hosted by neighbouring India.
India’s naval chief Sunil Lanba told media Tuesday that the Maldives had declined to participate in the ‘Milan’ exercise starting March 6, with no reason given for the absence.
His remarks were widely reported by the Indian media, with speculation that ties between the two countries were further unraveling after months of strain.
Hours later the Maldives embassy in New Delhi issued a statement.
“The Embassy 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,” it said. “During such a time especially, security personnel are expected to be at a heightened stance of readiness.”
President Abdulla Yameen imposed a state of emergency in the Maldives, alleging there was a plot to overthrow his government. It was declared days after a Supreme Court order that, had it been enforced, would have cost his party a parliamentary majority and freed his opponents in an election year.
There have been anti-Yameen protests in the capital and on other islands, with several arrests daily and riot police using force and pepper spray to disperse crowds.
“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,” the Maldives embassy added.
The Maldives later hit back at New Delhi, accusing it of distorting the facts.
Countries taking part in the ‘Milan’ exercise include Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Bangladesh and Indonesia.