Indo-French Naval Exercise 'Varuna-18' Begins Off Goa Coast

PANAJI/NEW DELHI: The navies of India and France are currently engaged in a joint bilateral exercise, "Varuna-18", in the Arabian Sea off the Goa coast, which commenced days after the leaders of the two countries decided to further deepen their maritime cooperation. 

The drill would include anti-submarine, air defence and asymmetric engagement exercises, a Navy official said. 

The two countries would explore the measures to facilitate the operational-level interactions between their respective armed forces. 

Rear Admiral M A Hampiholi, Flag Officer Commander, Western Fleet of the Indian Navy, said "Varuna-18" would be conducted in three sea areas -- the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the South Western Indian Ocean. 

The first phase would see the participation of the French Navy's anti-submarine frigate, Jean de Vienne, he added. 

"It is noteworthy that the progress of the 'Varuna' series of naval exercises has found a mention in the joint statement of the Prime Minister of India and President of France on March 10," he said. 

The harbour phase of the exercise had commenced on March 15 and it ended today, while the sea phase would be conducted from March 20-24, the Indian Navy said in a statement.

The second leg of the exercise will be held off the Chennai coast in April and the third near the La Reunion Island in May.

The exercise commenced three days after French President Emmanuel Macron left India. Macron was in the country from March 9-12, during which India and France decided to step up their cooperation, especially in the maritime domain. 

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