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

twitter-logoPTI | May 3, 2019 | Updated 20:43 IST

New Delhi, May 3 (PTI) France Friday 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. 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 participate at the exercise. 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. On UN listing of JeM chief Masood Azhar, the French envoy called it a very important political decision and said that his government has been an "unconditional partner" of India in dealing with the challenge of terrorism. "For the first time the world has reached a consensus... It will have very concrete consequences," he said, adding France took the initiative after the Pulwama attack. France, the UK and the US had moved a fresh proposal to declare Azhar as global terrorist by the UN in the wake of the February 14 Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. The JeM had claimed responsibility for the attack. China put a technical hold on the proposal on March 13, blocking it for a fourth time to designate Azhar. On Wednesday, the UN declared him as a global terrorist after China lifted the hold. "It is very good news for the world community and India," he said. The French envoy said it was bit absurd that the JeM was banned by the UN but not its leader. Talking about deepening strategic ties between India and France, Ziegler said a French Navy official will join the Indian Navy's information management centre in Gurgaon in September. He also said that India has been invited to the upcoming G7 summit. About the Varuna exercise, he said it will reflect rising defence coperation between the two countries. 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. PTI MPB ZMN

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