Male: Maldives on Tuesday warned of new dangers lurking close to the Indian Ocean atolls with the rapid spread of Somali piracy.

"These threats have now come to our close proximity," the country's Defence Minister Mohammad Nazim said as he flagged off the first ever India, Maldives and Sri Lanka Coast Guards trilateral exercises off the island.

"We live by selling dreams of tranquility and even a small incident in our territory could have devastating implications for the region," he declared.

Nazim said Maldives had "never been" and "will never be a safe haven for terrorism". He said the group of islands had enjoyed peace and tranquility for ages, adding "we want to ensure it stays like that". He said his country will neither "harbour" or "tolerate" terrorists and extremists on its soil.

Describing the joint exercise as timely, Nazim said that a collaborative approach in combating maritime threats was the right response to them.

Nazim lauded India, saying it has "always been a close ally and has played a key role in training and equipping MNDF Coast Guard to its current level".

Six warships are taking part in the five-day exercises code named 'Dosti XI'. Indian Coast Guard ships 'Sankalp' and 'Subhadra' are participating in the war games, while 'Huravee', 'Ghazee' and 'Shaheed Ali' of the Maldivian National Defence Force represent the Maldivian Coast Guard.

A Sri Lankan Naval statement said that due to its geo-strategic significance, it is important for the Coast Guards of the three friendly countries to ensure the safety and security of the Indian Ocean for all sea-farers.

"The mutually beneficial exercise, therefore, will pay the way for launching coordinated efforts in times of crisis," it said.

Sri Lankan Navy's offshore patrol vessel SLNS Sagara has set sailed to take part in the war games. This is the first time that Lankan coast guards are taking part in such a joint exercise.

"The exercise will focus on Maritime Search and Rescue, Marine Pollution Response and Boarding Operations," the statement said.

(Agencies)