New Delhi, Aug. 23: India has lined up a series of exercises with the navies of France, the US and the UK over the next three months beginning next week.
Earlier this month, the defence ministry announced a shift in the navy’s “operational philosophy” from being a guardian of the coasts and the exclusive economic zone to a “stabilising force” in the Indian Ocean region.
Navy sources said Varuna 03, an anti-submarine warfare exercise, would be held with the French navy off the western coast from August 25 to August 30. Next week’s exercise is a continuation of the drill the Indian and French navies had last year.
A supply and command vessel, the Marne, and a destroyer, the Dupleix, are being assigned for the exercise by the French navy.
The Indian and French navies held their biggest exercise with 40 ships, including two aircraft carriers and submarines and aircraft, in February-March 2000.
Since then, there have been several visits by French warships. Next week’s Varuna 03 exercise will see the French operating a light helicopter from one of the two ships and a French Atlantique aircraft will fly out of Goa.
The Indian ships to participate in the exercise are the INS Ganga, a Godavari class frigate, the INS Dunagiri, a Leander class frigate, and a Shishumar class (HDW) submarine. A Seaking helicopter will fly sorties from the Ganga and a Chetak helicopter from the Dunagiri.
Naval sources said the manoeuvres would include cross-deck landings — the French helicopter would land on the Indian vessels and vice versa.
The sources said the Marne will carry Rear Admiral Richard Wilmot-Roussel, chief of the French navy’s international affairs wing in the Indian Ocean maritime zone. The Marne will sail to Chennai after the exercise in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Mumbai and Goa.
The French admiral in charge of the Indian Ocean maritime zone will fly to Delhi for staff talks when the Marne will be docked at Chennai from September 8-13.
Last fortnight, inducting the stealth frigate, the INS Talwar, navy chief Admiral Madhvendra Singh pointed to the growing presence of his vessels in distant assignments. Two offshore patrol vessels, the INS Suvarna and the INS Sharada, were on security duty off Mozambique for the African Union Summit.
For more than a year, the navy has also been involved in co-ordination with the US and, later, with Indonesia, in giving escort services to merchant vessels sailing the sea lanes through the Malacca Straits.
Following the anti-submarine drill with the French next week, the navy has also lined up the Malabar exercise — one of a series — with the US in October and another joint programme with the British in November.
The drill with the Americans, naval sources said, will be of a “high level”.
This year’s Malabar exercise, from October 2-7 will be held off the coast of Kochi. Two US warships and a submarine will participate. The Indian Navy’s participation will be commensurate to the US participation.
The details are to be worked out during a planning meet in Delhi in early September. The Malabar exercise will include anti-submarine warfare as one of the elements.