Maritime exercise Varuna has become a hallmark of the India-France strategic bilateral relationship
The second phase of the 21st edition of Varuna-23, the bilateral maritime exercise between the Indian and French navies, was conducted in the Arabian Sea over a period of three days earlier this month. 
The exercise witnessed the participation of guided missile frigates, a tanker, Maritime Patrol Aircraft and integral helicopters from the two sides. The exercise involved joint operations, underway replenishment and various tactical manoeuvres, India's Ministry of Defence said on Friday (September 8, 2023).
Units of both navies endeavoured to enhance and hone their war fighting skills, improve interoperability and demonstrate their ability to promote peace, the ministry added. 
The first phase of the exercise, conducted over five days off India's Western Seaboard from January 16-20, 2023, witnessed advanced air defence exercises, tactical manoeuvres, surface firings, underway replenishment and other maritime operations.
While the bilateral exercise between the two navies was initiated in 1993, it was christened as ‘Varuna’ in 2001. It has since become a hallmark of the India-France strategic bilateral relationship.
This exercise has grown in scope and complexity over the years and provides an opportunity to learn from each other’s best practices. Exercise Varuna facilitates operational-level interaction between the two navies to foster mutual cooperation for good order at sea, underscoring the shared commitment of both nations to security, safety and freedom of the global maritime commons, the Ministry of Defence said.
India and France have a close relationship when it comes to defence. Earlier this year, the Indian Navy's indigenously-built guided missile frigate INS Sahyadri participated in a Maritime Partnership Exercise (MPX) with two French Navy ships, FS Dixmude, and FS La Fayette, in the Arabian Sea on March 10-11, 2023.
The close defence relationship was also on display when a 269-member tri-services contingent of the Indian Armed Forces participated in the Bastille Day Parade in Paris on July 14, 2023. Rafale fighter jets of the Indian Air Force formed part of the fly past during the parade. Prime Minister Narendra was the guest of honour. 
The India-France Strategic Partnership was established in 1998. It is based on a commitment to international law and belief in a multipolar world shaped by reformed and effective multilateralism.
The two sides are also committed to advancing peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. Their Indo-Pacific partnership encompasses defence and security, trade, investment, connectivity, health, and sustainability.