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Indo-French naval exercise 'Varuna' begins

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Indian Navy's INS Viraat (in pic) is taking part in the naval exercise along with France's Charles de Gaulle.

NEW DELHI (PTI): India and France Thursday began 10-day naval exercise 'Varuna' that will see 12 Rafale fighter jets in action off the Goa coast along with a host of naval assets from both countries.

The 14th edition of 'Varuna' started with the arrival of four French naval ships at Goa including aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, two destroyers Chevalier Paul and Jean de Vienne, replenishment tanker Meuse and a maritime patrol aircraft Atlantique 2.

The French aircraft carrier is carrying fighter aircraft Rafale M, Strike Aircraft Super Etendard, E2C Hawkeye Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) -- a mobile, long-range radar surveillance and control centre for air defence -- and helicopters Dauphin and Alouette 3.

India has decided to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in fly-away condition for the Indian Air Force.

From Indian side, aircraft carrier INS Viraat, destroyer INS Mumbai, stealth frigate INS Tarkash, guided missile frigate INS Gomati, replenishment tanker INS Deepak, submarine INS Shankul and a few Fast Attack Craft are participating in the exercise.

Both INS Mumbai and INS Tarkash had recently come back after completing the evacuation operation in Yemen.

Apart from these, Indian Navy's carrier-borne fighter aircraft Sea Harriers, maritime reconnaissance aircraft P-8I and Dorniers along with integral helicopters Seaking 42B and Chetak would also be participating.

The scope of exercise includes the entire gamut of maritime operations from aircraft carrier operations, anti-submarines warfare exercises, maritime interdiction operations to multi-ship replenishment exercise, an official statement said.

Relations between India and France have traditionally been close and friendly. With the establishment of strategic partnership in 1998, there has been significant progress in all areas of bilateral cooperation and exchanges including naval exercises.

The Indian Navy and the French Navy have been conducting naval exercises since 1983 and following the establishment of a strategic partnership, these exercises were christened as 'Varuna' in 2001.

The 10-day exercise which began Thursday will continue till May 3.

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