- Maldives declined an invitation to join naval exercise hosted by India
- Maldives statement: Would have been there as observers only
- "They have not given any reason," said Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba
It also played down its decision to stay away from the exercise, underscoring that the participation of Maldives Naval officers "would have been as observers only" and their absence was "not extraordinary".
The statement by Maldives Embassy in Delhi came hours after Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba announced that the Indian Ocean archipelago had turned down the offer to join the eight-day long mega naval exercise - Milan - starting 6 March.
The biennial naval exercise, first held in 1995 with just five navies, aims to expand regional cooperation and expects to have representation from 16 navies including Australia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand and Oman.
"They have not given any reason," the Navy Chief told reporters on Tuesday.
The decision to stay away from the naval exercise was widely seen as the strategically-located tiny island nation, which is cosying up to China, rebuffing New Delhi.
Pointing to the "current circumstances" back home, Maldives Ambassador to India Ahmed Mohamed said "During such a time especially, security personnel are expected to be at a heightened stance of readiness," the statement said.
"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," Mr Mohamed said.
He said the two countries 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".