India, France to hold naval drills
India and France will cement their defence cooperation in April when the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier strike force will conduct exercises with INS Vikramaditya in two phases in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, according to people familiar with the matter.
The dates of the exercises are being scheduled between the two navies, the people added.
The nuclear-powered French carrier force, comprising two frigates and one support ship, has for several months been on mission “Clemenceau 21”, which deals with fighting terrorism in the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea/ Persian Gulf.
According to Indian Navy officers aware of the developments, the Western Fleet with its newly appointed commander Rear Admiral Ajay Kochhar will conduct advanced exercises with the French carrier task force. While Charles de Gaulle is a 42,500 tonne aircraft carrier with Rafale M fighters on board, INS Vikramaditya is a conventionally powered aircraft carrier with displacement of 44,500 tonne and has MiG-29K aircraft on board.
April will also see renewed engagement with France with foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visiting India to deliver a lecture at a think-tank and engage in a political dialogue. Both India and France have convergence over freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific, with Paris appointing a special envoy for the region.
To add to this will be the arrival of seven Rafale jets from France between April 19 and 23, after which the first squadron of the French omni-role fighter will be completed at the Ambala airbase. The remaining 18 fighters will be deployed at Hashimara in the eastern sector to cover the strategic Siliguri corridor.
India and France have strengthened their bilateral relationship with convergence in the UN Security Council and building the Indian Air Force’s capacity through the purchase of medium transport aircraft and multi-role transport tankers.
The two countries have also joined hands in development of air independent propulsion for conventional submarines for future Indian submersible ships.
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