Navys of India and France Sunday began an annual exercise, the latest in a series of bilateral war games, in the waters off the southern port of Kochi,according to Indo-Asian News Service.
The Varuna 2005/1 joint exercise, which will continue till March 7, will focus on measures to counter mines in view of developments in the Persian Gulf.
"Recent developments in the Persian Gulf have demonstrated the relative ease with which mine warfare can be waged at sea and consequently the threat it poses to merchant shipping," said Commander Vinay Garg, the Indian Navy spokesman.
"Varuna 2005/1 is the first mine warfare exercise being conducted between the French and the Indian Navy. Extensive mine counter measures and diving exercises will be practiced during this interaction."
The French Navy Task Group comprises two mine hunting ships - FNS Orion and FNS Aigle -- with one mine warfare command ship FNS Loire.
The mine counter measure ships INS Kozhikode, Cannanore and Cuddalore represent the Indian Navy. The exercise will also include the deployment of under water explosive disposal teams comprising divers from both navies.
The harbor phase of the exercise includes training and professional discussions between the French and the Indian Navy. The French personnel will visit the Indian Navy's training establishments at Kochi.
The crew of the visiting ships will also take part in sports and social activities.
The Varuna series of exercises provide an opportunity for the two sides to interact professionally in various spheres of maritime warfare. Twelve exercises have been conducted since 1998.
The last exercise was held in the waters off Goa in April 2004 and focused on anti-air warfare and anti-submarine warfare.
India and France have had close defense ties for decades. The Indian Navy is set to close a deal with a French firm to acquire technology to build the advanced Scorpene submarines in state-run shipbuilding yards.