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Indo-French 'Varuna' exercise will be unprecedented in size and scope: France

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Indian Navy's aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya will take part in the drill along with other frontline platforms.

NEW DELHI (PTI): France has said the Varuna naval exercise with India is going to be "unprecedented" in scope and size, and it will further deepen security cooperation between the two countries.

The second phase of the ongoing exercise will be held in strategically-located Djibouti in the Horn of Africa where China set up its first overseas military base nearly two years ago.

"The exercise will be unprecedented in scope and size... It will also be unprecedented in its ambition," French Ambassador Alexandre Ziegler told reporters on Friday.

The first phase of the annual Varuna exercise began on Wednesday off the Goa coast. France has a military base in Djibouti which is close to some of the world's busiest shipping routes.

The envoy said India is the only country with whom France is having such a "complex and comprehensive" military exercise.

French Navy's aircraft carrier FNS Charles de Gaulle, two destroyers, FNS Forbin and FNS Provence, frigate FNS Latouche-Treville, tanker FNS Marne and a nuclear submarine are participating in the drill.

He said it will be the first overseas deployment of the FNS Charles De Gaulle after it was retrofitted. The carrier will have around 20 naval version of Rafale jets.

From the Indian side, aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, destroyer INS Mumbai, Teg-class frigate INS Tarkash, Shishumar-class submarine INS Shankul, and Deepak-class fleet tanker INS Deepak will participate in the drill.

The harbour phase of the exercise at Goa would include professional interactions and discussions while the sea phase in Djibouti would comprise various drills across the spectrum of maritime operations.

The exercises, initiated in 1983 and christened as 'Varuna' in 2001, form a vital part of the Indo-French strategic partnership.

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