India and France hold biggest naval exercises

With the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle at the centre, France and India on Friday stepped up their biggest naval exercises as the Indian Ocean’s strategic shipping lanes draw ever more envious eyes.

Without naming the Asian giant, India and France worry about China’s growing economic clout and its territorial claims that have caused tensions in the South China Sea.

“We think we can bring more stability to a region that is strategic, that has huge stakes, notably for international trade,” said Rear-Admiral Olivier Lebas, who commands the French fleet that includes its only aircraft carrier.

The vast majority of trade between Asia and Europe and the Middle East – particularly oil – is carried across the ocean, while Internet-communications cables straddle the seabed that is rich with its own oil and gas fields.

The 42,000-tonne Charles de Gaulle is one of 12 warships and submarines – six from each country – taking part in the 17th annual exercises off the coast of the Indian resort state of Goa.

French authorities say they are the biggest-ever since the exercises started in 2001. And the presence of the aircraft carrier, which has just undergone an 18-month refit, is no accident.


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