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India, France agree to expand scope, complexity of existing regular bilateral joint exercises

India and France have agreed to expand the scope and complexity of the existing regular bilateral joint exercises like Shakti, Varuna, and Garuda.

The discussions in this regard were held on Tuesday between Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his French counterpart Florence Parly here during the second India-France Ministerial level Annual Defence Dialogue.

The two leaders reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral defence cooperation, which is a key pillar of the India-France Strategic Partnership, and also exchanged views on contemporary regional and international developments of mutual interest, an official statement reads.

"During the Annual Defence Dialogue held in Paris, the two ministers comprehensively reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral defence cooperation, which is a key pillar of the India-France Strategic Partnership. They also exchanged views on contemporary regional and international developments of mutual interest," as per the statement.

"Both sides discussed ways to further deepen defence-related official as well as operational level interactions. Both sides agreed to expand the scope and complexity of the existing regular bilateral joint exercises (SHAKTI, VARUNA and GARUDA)," it added.

The ministers reaffirmed the strong intention of the two sides to further deepen bilateral cooperation on counter-terrorism.

It was also recognised that India-France partnership in the Indian Ocean Region is crucial for preserving and promoting common strategic and security interests.

"The two Ministers noted the continuing implementation of actions outlined in the 'Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region' (March 2018). The Ministers also reaffirmed the strong intention of the two sides to further deepen bilateral cooperation on counter-terrorism," said the statement.

The meeting was held after Singh attended a ceremony for the handing over of the first of the 36 Rafale aircraft being acquired by India from France.