The Exercise Varuna is being conducted in three legs, spanning 3 months. The harbour phase of the exercise had commenced on March 15, while the sea phase would be conducted from March 20-24 at the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT), Vasco. The first leg saw the participation of the French Navy’s anti-submarine frigate, Jean de Vienne. The second leg of the exercise was held off the Chennai coast in April and the third started near the La Reunion Island in May.
It was also held at time when Indian Ocean is witnessing increased Chinese naval presence.
The first phase had focused on joint anti-submarine combat training off Indian coast in Goa, with participation of French nuclear submarine and India’s Kalvari Scorpene-class submarine.
The second phase focused on amphibious operations with the French landing helicopter dock LHD Dixmude.
Both navies conducted final and third phase of Varuna naval exercise 2018 near Reunion Island in Indian Ocean region (IOR) to enhance their operational coordination. In the final phase, both navies simulated different possible scenarios such as asymmetric warfare and tested their air defence capabilities.
The Final Phase
The Indian and French navies are conducting the last phase of the 2018 Varuna naval exercise, from 1st to 7th of May, in the vicinity of Reunion Island.
The current exercise includes the participation of two major vessels of the Indian Navy, the destroyer INS Mumbai and the Talwar class frigate INS Trikand, and the maiden deployment at Reunion Island of a multimission maritime aircraft, the Boeing P-8I Neptune. They will interact with the French ships permanently deployed at Reunion Island, including the frigate Nivôse.
Indian Navy’s destroyer, INS Mumbai, and frigate INS Trikand were the vessels participating in the exercise. Moreover, Indian Navy’s submarine, Kalvari, P8-1 and Dornier maritime patrol aircraft and MiG 29K fighter aircraft also had participated in the exercise.
India is major defence partner of France in Indian Ocean region. Maritime security is priority in India-France’s defence and security policy, along with fight against terrorism. Indian Navy and French Navy have been conducting naval exercises since 1983. These exercises were christened as Varuna in 2001. The last edition of this annual bilateral exercise was conducted off French coast in April 2017.
The seven-day final-phase exercise sees the sailors simulating different scenarios, including air defense, firing, manoeuvers, asymmetric warfare and embarkation. Helicopters embarked on board navy ships are also training for touch-and-go landings.
About Exercise Varuna
The Varuna exercise is part of a long-term bilateral cooperation with India, illustrated by the regular port visits of French ships in India, and recently reinforced by the document on the Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region. The document was signed during the state visit of President Emmanuel Macron on March 10, 2018.
The Varuna series of naval exercises now has grown in scope and complexity and provides opportunity to naval forces of both countries to increase interoperability and learn from each other’s best practices.
Réunion Island is a French territory in the Indian Ocean. It is known for its volcanic, rainforested interior, coral reefs and beaches making it a climbing destination and tourist spot.
This exercise illustrates the strong interest France and India share concerning maritime security issues in this region. The third session of the Varuna exercise is being held after two successive phases.