New Delhi: Maldives has declined India's invitation to participate in the biennial naval exercise Milan, which starts March 6, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said on Tuesday.
Maldives has not not given any reason for the decision, Lanba told reporters on the sidelines of an event here.
Navy sources said over 16 countries have confirmed their participation in the exercise.
The biennial exercise 'Milan' is being organised in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the backdrop of China's growing military posturing in the Indo-Pacific region and officials said the issue is likely to figure during deliberations among navy chiefs of the participating countries at the event.
"The interactions during Milan encompass sharing of views and ideas on maritime good order and enhancing regional cooperation for combating unlawful activities at sea," spokesperson of Indian Navy Capt D K Sharma said.
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.
Officials said China's military manoeuvres in the South China Sea may figure during discussions among navy chiefs of the participating countries at the event....