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India, France to hold naval exercises next month
Updated: 2004-03-13 14:06

India's plan to sign the 2- billion-US-dollars deal to construct at least six French "Scorpene " submarines may have run into trouble due to the coming general election but the navies of the two countries are all set to hold a big joint exercise off the western coast next month.

"This Indo-French exercise will be the continuation of the ' Varuna' series, which began in November 2001. It will be held in the Arabian Sea from April 2 to 15," the Times of India, a leading English newspaper, quoted an officer as saying.

The exercise, which will act as a platform to check operational skills, will include several frontline destroyers and frigates from the two sides.

The Indian and French armed forces have been holding regular exercises with each other for the last three-four years as part of their growing bilateral defense cooperation.

After Russia and Israel, France is the largest arms supplier to India, with ventures in different fields ranging from upgradation of radars to modernization of military helicopters.

France also wants to sell its advanced Mirage-2000-V fighter jets to India and has promised technology transfer along with the deal.

India already has around 40 Mirage-2000 fly-by-wire jets, which constitute two squadrons, with another 10 jets as "reserves."

The Mirage-2000-V being offered is the latest version with much superior avionics and radars.

The long-term plan of Indian Air Force is to have six more Mirage-2000 squadrons, the paper says.

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