India, France begin mega naval wargame in Arabian Sea

New Delhi:India and France on Wednesday began a five-day mega naval wargame in the Arabian Sea in reflection of growing congruence in their maritime security cooperation.

The Indian Navy said various platforms including ships, submarines, maritime patrol aircraft, fighter aircraft and helicopters of the two navies are participating in the Varuna exercise.

“These units will endeavour to enhance and hone their operational skills in maritime theatre, augment inter-operability to undertake maritime security operations and demonstrate their commitment to promote peace, security and stability in the region as an integrated force,” it said in a statement.

It is the 20th edition of the Varuna series of exercises and it has become a vital part of strategic ties between the two countries.

“The exercise has been a principal driver for operational-level interactions between the two navies and has underscored the shared commitment of both nations to security, safety and freedom of the global maritime commons,” it said.

French Navy Chief Admiral Pierre Vandier visited India this week during which he held talks with his Indian counterpart Admiral R Hari Kumar focusing on mechanisms to ensure peace and stability in the Indian Ocean amid rising Chinese presence in the region.

The visit by the French Navy Chief came over a month after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar travelled to Paris.

During the visit, Jaishankar said India looks at France as a “trusted” partner in countering myriad security challenges from the seabed to space and from cyber to oceans.

The maritime cooperation between India and France has witnessed a major expansion in the last few years.

The Indian and French navies in April last year too carried out a mega wargame in the Arabian Sea.

The French Navy deployed its nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, and its entire carrier strike group in that exercise, reflecting growing congruence in naval ties.

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