India-France Naval Exercise Starts In Arabian Sea As China Increases Presence In Western Indian Ocean
India and France commenced the twenty-first edition of the bilateral naval exercises ‘Varuna’ on the western seaboard of India.
These exercises were started in 1993 to jointly train and maintain peace and stability in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
The Indian Navy ships INS Chennai, INS Teg, P-8I and Dornier maritime patrol aircraft, integral helicopters and MiG-29Ks will take part in this five-day exercise with the French Navy aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle, frigates FS Forbin and Provence, support vessel FS Marne and an Atlantique maritime patrol aircraft.
India's maritime security strategy lists the southwest Indian Ocean, including the Mozambique Channel (used by shipping transiting the Cape of Good Hope) and the east coast of Africa, where China has been investing heavily, as one of the primary areas of interest.
Over the last few years, China has invested in at least 17 ports in east Africa, giving it a robust presence in the western Indian Ocean. In 2017, it also launched its first foreign military base, located on Africa's east coast in Djibouti.
China also keeps a permanent presence in IOR under the garb of anti-piracy missions. On 10 January 2023, the 43rd Chinese Task Force also set sail for the Gulf of Aden.
These exercises counter Chinese influence and strengthen India’s claim to be the net-security provider in IOR. India usually is the first responder in any humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in IOR.
This exercise comes just months after India deployed P-8Is to Reunion Island to undertake joint patrols in IOR.
India has signed a logistics agreement with France, the US and Japan to use each other’s bases. India is also developing its own military base on the Agalega Island of Mauritius.
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