India and France on Sunday kicked off their major ‘Varuna’ naval exercise in the Arabian Sea, as a step towards promoting maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region. The bilateral exercise, in which France has deployed its nuclear-powered aircraft carrier FNS Charles de Gaulle with its Rafale-M naval jets, comes soon after the two countries joined the US, Japan and Australia in the ‘France plus Quad’ La Perouse wargames in the Bay of Bengal earlier this month.
With China’s aggressive and expansionist behaviour in the Indo-Pacific, there is growing strategic congruence among like-minded democratic countries to ensure a stable and secure Indo-Pacific as well as a rulesbased order in the region. “The three-day Varuna will see high tempo-naval operations at sea, including advanced air defence and anti-submarine exercises, intense fixed and rotary wing flying operations, tactical manoeuvres, surface and anti-air weapon firings, among other maritime security operations,” Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said. India has deployed guided missile stealth destroyer INS Kolkata, stealth frigates INS Tarkash and INS Talwar, fleet support ship INS Deepak, with Seaking-42B and Chetak integral helicopters, as well as a Kalvari-class diesel-electric submarine and P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft for the exercise.