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Australia and Maldives on Sunday refuted claims made by organisers of China’s Indian Ocean Region Initiative that they had officially participated in the forum organised by the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA).

On Sunday, Maldives released an official statement regarding a statement issued by the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) alleging the participation of the Maldives in the China-Indian Ocean Forum on Development Cooperation held on November 21.

“The Ministry would like to clarify, that the Government of Maldives did not participate in the above-mentioned forum, and communicated its decision not to participate to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China to the Maldives on November 15,” the Maldives foreign ministry statement read.

It mentioned, “Furthermore, participation by individuals or a group of individuals from the Maldives, does not constitute official representation by the Government of Maldives.”

While there was no official participation by Australia and the Maldives, former Maldives President Mohammed Waheed Hassan and former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd were reported to have virtually joined the meeting in their individual capacity.

Explaining the Maldives’ position, the statement added, “Official accreditation to meetings, forums and conferences to represent the Maldives, as per international practice, will only take place through diplomatic channels. Therefore, for this specific meeting, there was no official representation by the Government of Maldives.”

Australian envoy Barry O’Farrell took to Twitter and rejected CIDCA’s claims saying, “Contrary to media reporting, no Australian Government official attended the Kunming China-Indian Ocean Forum on Development Cooperation.”

In fact, he went ahead and added that the only ‘Indian Ocean forum’ Australia officially took part in was the Ministerial Council of which India is also a participant and would soon be the Vice-Chair of.

“Pleased @TimWattsMP attended #IORA Ministerial Council last week, the only ministerial-level forum for Indian Ocean. 🇦🇺 was delighted 🇮🇳’s application for Vice Chair was accepted by consensus. We share an enduring interest: a free, open, rules-based & secure Indo-Pacific,” tweeted the Australian envoy.

The Chinese organisers had claimed that they brought together representatives from 19 countries in the region, except India.

The countries included Indonesia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Afghanistan, Iran, Oman, South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, Djibouti, and Australia. No representative from India was invited.

For now, Australia and the Maldives have rejected the claims.

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India today