A few days after the leaders of India and France decided to further deepen their maritime cooperation, Exercise Varuna 2018 kicked off. The two countries will be exploring the measures to facilitate the operational-level interactions between their respective armed forces and increase mutual cooperation, considering the common global threats.
The exercise 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 will be held off the Chennai coast in April and the third near the La Reunion Island in May.
- Varuna-18 is being conducted in three sea areas – the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the South Western Indian Ocean. The drill includes anti-submarine, air defence and asymmetric engagement exercises.
- French Navy frigate FS Jean de Vienne and nuclear attack submarine FS La Perle arrived in Goa to participate in the first phase of the exercise.
- Indian Navy’s destroyer, INS Mumbai, and frigate INS Trikand are among the vessels participating in the exercise. Navy’s submarine, Kalvari, P8-1 and Dornier maritime patrol aircraft and MiG 29K fighter aircraft are also participating in the exercise.
- Maritime cooperation between India and France will be crucial in order to maintain the safety of international sea lanes for unimpeded commerce and communications in accordance with the international laws, for countering maritime terrorism and piracy and building maritime domain awareness.
History of ‘Varuna’:
- The Indian Navy and the French Navy have been conducting conducted bilateral maritime exercises since May 1993. Since 2001, the exercises have been named VARUNA and there have been fifteen editions of the same till date.
- The last edition of VARUNA was conducted off the French Coast in April 2017 in the European waters.
- The Varuna series of exercises has grown in scope and complexity over the years and provide an opportunity to both Navies to increase interoperability and learn from each other’s best practices.
Importance of Varuna:
- Over the past two years, People Liberation Army Navy submarines are frequently present in the IOR, making periodic forays into the Arabian Sea.
- The exercise also comes at a time when the Indian Ocean is witnessing an increased Chinese naval presence.
- Maritime cooperation between France and India will be crucial in maintaining the safety of international sea lanes for unimpeded commerce and communication in accordance with international law, for building maritime domain awareness and for greater coordination in regional and international fora in the region.