The Indian Navy on Monday kicked off a joint maritime exercise with the French Navy at the Mediterranean Sea to further deepen combat coordination between the two navies.
Guided missile destroyer INS Mumbai, stealth frigate INS Trishul and fleet tanker INS Aditya are taking part in the'Varuna' exercise which will continue till April 30.
The ships are part of the Indian Navy's overseas deployment to the Mediterranean Sea and West Coast of Africa and they arrived at Toulon port on southern France's Mediterranean coast earlier on Monday. The 'Varuna' series of exercises began in 2000 and have grown into an institutionalised form of interaction betweenthe two navies.
"The current visit seeks to underscore India's peacefulpresence and solidarity with friendly and like-mindedcountries towards ensuring good order in the maritime domainand to strengthen the existing bonds between India andFrance," navy spokesperson Capt. D K Sharma said.
Interestingly, the exercise coincides with the visit ofVice Admiral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding-in-ChiefWestern Naval Command, to France. Luthra is scheduled to visit the French frigate FNS Auvergne, a French nuclear submarine unit, as well as an underwater weapons facility.
He would also call on senior officials in France, including Vice Admiral Charles-Henri du Che, Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Sea Area (CECMED).
The visiting ships are a part of the Indian Navy'sWestern Naval Command. Defence cooperation between India and France has grownsubstantially in the recent past. Bilateral exercises such as 'Garuda', 'Shakti' and'Varuna' have been a regular feature between the two nations.