Indo - French Naval Ex­er­cise - Varuna 2018

Rear Ad­mi­ral Sushil Ram­say (Retd)


the AN­Nu­ALLy heLD VAruNA naval ex­er­cise is an in­te­gral part of the grow­ing france– In­dia strate­gic re­la­tion­ship and con­sists of naval co­op­er­a­tion drills be­tween the french Navy and the In­dian Navy. the joint-ex­er­cises are held ei­ther in the In­dian ocean or Mediter­ranean sea with the aim of im­prov­ing Indo- french co­or­di­na­tion on ca­pa­bil­i­ties like cross-deck oper­a­tions, re­plen­ish­ment-at-sea, minesweep­ing, anti-sub­ma­rine war­fare and in­for­ma­tion shar­ing. Ini­ti­ated in 2001, the naval ex­er­cise Varuna aims to de­velop in­ter­op­er­abil­ity be­tween the navies of the two coun­tries by shar­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and tac­tics so as to be able to con­duct oper­a­tions jointly, should the ne­ces­sity arise. the Varuna se­ries of ex­er­cises have 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.

the In­dian and french Navies have been con­duct­ing bi­lat­eral mar­itime ex­er­cises since May 1993. In 2001 a new des­ig­na­tion of ‘Varuna’ was as­signed to the an­nual ex­er­cises. Last edi­tion, Varuna-2017 was held from April 24 to May 12, 2017. the In­dian Navy had de­puted four of its front­line ships; viz. guided mis­sile de­stroyer INs Mum­bai, two guided mis­sile fri­gates INs tr­ishul and INs tarkash, and re­plen­ish­ment and re­pair ship INs Aditya. from the french Navy too, four ships par­tic­i­pated: multi-mis­sion fri­gates Au­vergne and Aquitaine, the anti-air­craft frigate Cas­sard, and the stealth frigate La fayette.

for Varuna-2018, french Naval ship Jean de Vi­enne and Nu­clear pro­pelled sub­ma­rine perle vis­ited Goa from March 15 to 20, 2018. fNs Jean de Vi­enne is com­manded by Cap­tain fabrice Berth­elot and the ship is manned by 221 per­son­nel. french sub­ma­rine ssN perle is com­manded by Com­man­der frank Ca­tros and the ssN is manned by 78 per­son­nel. A se­ries of pro­fes­sional and other for­mal in­ter­ac­tions were held be­tween the French Navy per­son­nel and of­fi­cers and sailors of the Goa Naval Area. A press con­fer­ence was on­board INs Mum­bai on March 19, 2018.

Cap­tain fabrice Berth­elot and Com­man­der Frank Ca­tros, Com­mand­ing Of­fi­cers of Jean de Vi­enne and perle re­spec­tively, called on rear Ad­mi­ral phili­pose Ge­orge Pynu­mootil, the Flag Of­fi­cer Com­mand­ing Goa Naval Area on March 15, 2018, and dis­cussed var­i­ous bi­lat­eral is­sues.

In 2017, Varuna was con­ducted in three sea ar­eas in the euro­pean wa­ters. Varuna-2018 too was con­ducted in three sea ar­eas, namely, the Ara­bian sea, the Bay of Ben­gal and south Western In­dian ocean. the sec­ond phase, the sea phase be­gan from March 20, 2018, and was con­ducted in the Ara­bian sea, with par­tic­i­pa­tion of a french sub­ma­rine and frigate Jean de Vi­enne from the french side. the In­dian Naval ships, de­stroyer Mum­bai, frigate trikand with their in­te­gral he­li­copters, In­dian Navy sub­ma­rine Kal­vari, p8-I and Dornier mar­itime pa­trol air­craft, as well as the MiG-29K fighter air­craft par­tic­i­pated in the fi­nal oper­a­tions phase. the sea/oper­a­tions phase com­prised an­ti­sub­ma­rine war­fare, asym­met­ric en­gage­ment ex­er­cises, com­mu­ni­ca­tion ex­changes at sea, pas­sage ex­er­cises, etc.

shortly be­fore the com­mence­ment of Varuna 2018, the pres­i­dent of the republic of france, em­manuel Macron ac­com­pa­nied by Brigitte Marie-Claude Macron paid a state visit to In­dia from March 9 to 12, 2018. An all-im­por­tant mu­tual lo­gis­tics sup­port pact, most per­ti­nent to the mu­tual Varuna se­ries of ex­er­cises was signed be­tween the two coun­tries dur­ing this visit.

on con­clu­sion of the visit pres­i­dent Macron made a his­toric an­nounce­ment in his of­fi­cial com­mu­niqué, “We want In­dia as our first strate­gic part­ner here, and we want to be In­dia’s first strate­gic part­ner in europe, and even the western world.” france sup­ports In­dia’s bid to the NsG and uNsC and both coun­tries share com­mon con­cerns and ob­jec­tives in the field of non-pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass de­struc­tion. Both have re­it­er­ated their sup­port to the In­dian ocean rim As­so­ci­a­tion (IorA) and the val­ues it pro­motes, and com­mit­ment to proac­tively con­trib­ute to­wards the pri­or­i­ties of IorA. China’s mil­i­tari­sa­tion of the In­dian ocean is cause of con­cern for both In­dia and france, even as In­dia is redefin­ing its strate­gic space in the Indo-Pa­cific. Sign­ing of the agree­ment for grant­ing re­cip­ro­cal ac­cess to facilities of both coun­ties al­lows In­dia lo­gis­tics ac­cess to french mil­i­tary bases in Dji­bouti, Abu Dhabi, and re­u­nion Is­land, which will be im­por­tant and def­i­nite force mul­ti­pli­ers. france has al­ways main­tained an in­de­pen­dent pol­icy in­clud­ing with the us and NAto. It will not like to join the ‘Quad’ com­pris­ing In­dia, us, Ja­pan and Aus­tralia. But not­with­stand­ing that close bi­lat­eral Indo-french bi­lat­eral part­ner­ship is sig­nif­i­cant for both coun­tries. In the ab­sence of an ar­chi­tec­ture for the Indo-Pa­cific to en­sure se­cu­rity of sea Lanes of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, global com­mons and the re­gion, in­ter­op­er­a­ble navies that can use each other’s naval facilities is cer­tainly the best sub­sti­tute. But this be­ing just one part, the In­dia-france strate­gic part­ner­ship has great po­ten­tial to keep go­ing from the next to next level”.

In 2017, Varuna was con­ducted in three sea ar­eas in the Euro­pean wa­ters. Varuna-2018 too was con­ducted in three sea ar­eas, namely, the Ara­bian Sea, the Bay of Ben­gal and South Western In­dian Ocean.

(Top, L-R) Rear Ad­mi­ral Di­dier Pi­a­ton, AI-INDIEN; Rear Ad­mi­ral Pi­a­ton and Rear Ad­mi­ral M.A. Hampi­holi, Flag Of­fi­cer Com­mand­ing Western Fleet ex­chang­ing crests; (above) INS Mum­bai and INS Trikand.

PHO­TO­GRAPHS: In­dian Navy

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