Maldives has turned down India’s invitation to participate in a biennial naval exercise that begins in March, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba (pictured above) said on Tuesday, PTI reported.

While Maldives has not said why it would not be participating, India’s stance over its internal political crisis has affected relations between the two countries in recent weeks.

The Indian Navy said more than 16 countries have confirmed their participation in the exercise, called Milan.

Lanba also commented on China’s aggressive posturing in the Indo-Pacific region. “We are aware of Chinese activities in the Indian Ocean region,” he said, according to ANI. “Their pattern of deployment has remained the same for many years. At any time, there are 8-10 ships in the Indian Ocean.”

The Maldives crisis and India

On February 20, the Maldivian Parliament approved President Abdulla Yameen’s proposal to extend the state of emergency in the country by 30 days. Yameen had first imposed the state of emergency in the island nation on February 6, in defiance of a Supreme Court order to release political prisoners. Security forces then stormed the court premises and arrested two judges, including the chief justice.

On February 21, India said it was “deeply dismayed” by the extension of the state of emergency in Maldives for 30 days.

A day later, Maldives criticised India for calling the Maldivian Parliament’s move unconstitutional. It said India’s assertion was a “clear distortion of facts, which ignore the Constitution and laws of the Maldives”.

China, meanwhile, has been asking India to respect Maldives sovereignty and not interfere in the country’s internal affairs.