India and France have commenced a three-day naval exercise in the Arabian Sea in a bid to improve interoperability and enhance war fighting capabilities.

The 19th edition of the bilateral ‘Varuna-2021’ exercise will involve a variety of drills, including advanced air defence and anti-submarine exercises, fixed and rotary wing flying operations, and tactical manoeuvres.

The two naval forces will also participate in surface and anti-air weapon firings, underway replenishment, and other maritime security operations.

The Indian side will be represented by guided missile stealth destroyer INS Kolkata, guided missile frigates INS Tarkash and INS Talwar, fleet support ship INS Deepak, with Seaking 42B and Chetak integral helicopters.

Additionally, the Indian Navy has deployed a Kalvari class submarine and P8I Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

France has fielded aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle carrying Rafale-M fighter, E2C Hawkeye aircraft, and Caïman M and Dauphin helicopters.

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Horizon-class air defence destroyer Chevalier Paul, Aquitaine-class multi-missions frigate FNS Provence, a Caïman M helicopter, and a command and supply ship Var will also be participating in the exercise.

An Indian Ministry of Defence statement said: “Varuna-21 highlights growing bonhomie and showcases increased levels of synergy, coordination and inter-operability between the two friendly navies.

“These interactions further underscore the shared values as partner navies in ensuring freedom of seas and commitment to an open, inclusive Indo-Pacific and a rules-based international order.”

Once Varuna-2021 is complete, INS Tarkash will join the French Navy’s Carrier Strike Group (CSG) to participate in advanced surface, anti-submarine and air-defence operations from 28 April to 1 May 2021.

In February, India’s western neighbour Pakistan conducted a multinational naval maritime exercise Aman-2021 in Arabian Sea.