An Indian Summer on the French Riviera
The “Varuna” naval exercise in Toulon and the Year of India in Saint Tropez
The thirteenth edition of the Indo-French joint naval exercise “Varuna”, one of the major rendezvous of defence cooperation with India, France’s strategic partner, took place in France and for the first time along the Mediterranean coast.
Varuna (Rig Vedic lord of the celestial ocean) is an annual naval exercise that brings together the French and Indian navies, more often than not along Indian coasts. The only other exercise to have taken place in France before was in Brest, in 2009.
This year, the deployed Indian naval force constituted the guided missile destroyer “Mumbai”, the “Trishul” and “Gomati” frigates, and the replenishment ship “Aditya”. The Indian deployment was very busy during its sojourn in French waters : a call at the military port of Toulon, a sea exercise (Varuna), and participation in the Year of India celebrations in Saint Tropez.
An studies port call
The Indian seamen and those from the French ships participating in the exercise – the frigate “Surcouf”, the command and replenishment ship “Var”, and the aviso “Commandant Birot” – met over briefings and ground exercises. Luckily, this did not prevent the crews from making the most of this port call in France by visiting the surroundings, from Marseille to Monaco.
The presence of 1200 Indian sailors over three days in the streets of Toulon did not go unnoticed by the locals or the tourists. The Indian Navy band even gave a concert at the port, to the great delight of tourists, who were regaled with not only Indian but also international music revisited – including French numbers (their rendition of “Sultans of Swing” lived up to that of the Dire Straits, and Alizée would certainly have appreciated the instrumental version of her “Moi… Lolita”).
Intense sea exercises
Thereafter, the two navies participated in sea exercises off the Var coast : replenishment, helicopter manoeuvres, surface and air target strikes, anti-submarine warfare, ship calls, etc. Air and submarine resources were used during these exercises.
These regular high-level exercises help, on one hand, to ensure the interoperability necessary for being able to work together and, on the other, share new tactics or experiences so that unexpected joint operations may be smoothly conducted. The two navies have already worked together before, for instance, in carrying out sea surveillance and anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean.
Year of India in Saint Tropez
On the occasion of the “Year of India in Saint Tropez”, the guided missile destroyer, “Mumbai”, and the frigate “Surcouf” dropped anchor at Saint Tropez, on 20-21 July, to participate in the numerous events organised by the city of Saint Tropez and the French Navy. Among these were an aubade by the Saint-Mandrier band, a conference on the plurisecular ties between India and Saint Tropez, a military review in front of the monument to fallen soldiers and then the statue of the bailiff of Suffren, in the presence of Rear Admiral Yann Tainguy, commander-in-chief for the Mediterranean and maritime prefect.
Lastly, the helihoisting and sea rescue demonstration by a French Navy public service Dauphin helicopter and a star of the National Sea Rescue Company (SNSM) met with thundering success among the spectators, who had turned out in large numbers.