Panaji, May 6 (IANS) The 17th edition of 'Varuna', an Indo-French naval exercise which is underway off Goa, is the largest ever joint exercise undertaken by the two navies yet, and represents the climax of the strengthened maritime co-operation between India and France, statements issued by both navies said on Monday.The statement, which was released at a media interaction held onboard INS Mumbai, that is participating in the exercise, also said that the harbour and sea phases of the exercise from May 1 to May 6 and from May 7 to May 10, respectively, are aimed at honing skills for naval operations across a broad spectrum, with increased focus on tactical scenarios.The second sea phase is scheduled to be held at the end of May in Djibouti, located on the Horn of Africa."It will be the largest every conducted Varuna exercise with 11 of India and Frances's most modern units, including two aircrafts and two submarines....," a statement issued by the French Navy said."Exercise Varuna is the climax of our strengthened maritime co-operation," it added.Participating in the maritime exercise are the French Navy's aircraft carrier FNS Charles de Gaulle, two destroyers, FNS Forbin and FNS Provence, the frigate FNS Latouche-Treville, the tanker FNS Marne and a nuclear submarine. The Indian Navy is represented by aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, destroyer INS Mumbai, the Teg-class frigate, INS Tarkash, the Shishumar-class submarine INS Shankul, and the Deepak-class fleet tanker INS Deepak.Before arriving in Goa, the French anti-aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which incidentally is back in operation after a major midlife refit, had participated in a fully integrated 'Operation Inherent Resolve' against the ISIS, and an anti-submarine exercise in the Gulf of Oman."The series of operations scheduled in the coming days are very ambitious. Year after year we have continually increased the complexity of Varuna and this edition underscores the enhanced level of our inter-operability," said the Commander of the Carrier Strike Group Charles de Gaulle Rear Admiral Olivier Lebas.The Indian Navy in its statement said that India and France have traditionally shared close and friendly relations, which have gained momentum over the past two decades and cooperation has been enhanced in multiple sectors of mutual interest."Armed forces of both countries have achieved a high level of inter-operability witheach other through regular defence exercises. Exercise Varuna has grown in scale, scope and complexity over the years, underscoring the shared interest and commitment of both nations in promoting maritime security," the Indian Navy statement said."The first (sea) phase will be held off Goa from May 7 to 10, and would include anti-submarine exercises, live firing drills, naval helicopter operations, and basic to advanced level exercises for carrier borne fighter aircraft," the statement added.
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