India and France will cement its defence cooperation in April when Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier strike force will exercise with INS Vikramaditya in two phases in Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. The dates of the exercises are being scheduled between the two navies.
The nuclear powered French carrier force, comprising two frigates and on support ship, is on mission “Clemenceau 21”, which is involved in the fight against terrorism for several months in Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea/ Persian Gulf.
According to people aware of the developments in the Navy , the Western Fleet with its newly appointed commander Rear Admiral Ajay Kochhar will be conducting advanced exercises with the French carrier task force. While Charles de Gaulle is a 42,500 tonne aircraft carrier with Rafale M fighter on board, INS Vikramaditya is a conventionally powered aircraft carrier with displacement of 44,500 tonnes and has MiG-29K fighters on board.
The month of April will see renewed engagement with France with Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian arriving in India to deliver a lecture at a think-tank and pursue political dialogue with India. Both India and France have convergence over freedom of navigation in Indo-Pacific with Paris appointing a special envoy for the region.
To add to this will be arrival of seven Rafale fighters from France between April 19-23, after which the first squadron of the French omni-role fighter will be completed at Ambala air base. The remaining 18 fighters will be deployed at Hashimara in the eastern sector to cover the strategic Siliguri corridor.
India and France have cemented their bilateral relationship with convergence in UN Security Council and building up Indian Air Force’s capacity through 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.