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The seventh edition of the joint military exercise between the Indian and the French Armies, ‘Shakti-2024’ kicked off on Monday at the Eastern Command’s Joint Training Node in Meghalaya’s Umroi.

Held alternately in India and France, this year’s exercise – which will last until May 26 – focuses on training for ground control operations in semi-urban and mountainous terrain under United Nations mandate besides including for the first time Air Force assets as well as Navy and Air Force observers.

It marks a new level of complexity compared to previous editions as it has fielded twice as many troops as before and began with a brigade-level command post-exercise.

The French contingent comprises 90 personnel from the Legion etrangere (Foreign Legion), an elite corps of the French Army. On January 26, another contingent from the Legion etrangere had taken part in India’s Republic Day parade with France as the guest of honour.

This year’s Shakti exercise is also taking place in the framework of an intensification of Indo-French defence ties following French President Emmanuel Macron’s State Visit to India on January 25-26.

Recently, CDS General Anil Chauhan paid an official visit to France, while the French Navy and Army Chiefs visited India.

A French frigate, FNS Bretagne, made a port call in Kerala last week as part of an Indo-Pacific deployment. The bilateral ‘Varuna’ naval exercise will take place later this year, and the French Air Force will take part in India’s multi-nation Tarang-Shakti exercise scheduled in August.

Defence and security cooperation is an essential component of the Indo-French strategic partnership. It was enshrined as the first pillar of the Horizon 2047 Roadmap, which charts the course of the partnership’s next 25 years, and was adopted during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landmark 2023 visit to France on the occasion of Bastille Day.

Indo-French defence cooperation aims to strengthen both nations’ sovereignty and strategic autonomy and to advance peace in the region.

“Together, we have built a unique strategic partnership, based on a level of mutual trust that is rarely seen between nations. A shining example of this was the unprecedented reciprocal invitation of our leaders to our respective National Days, Bastille Day last year in France, and Republic Day this year in India. The pictures of our troops marching together on the Champs-Elysées in Paris and then on Kartavya Path in Delhi are a powerful and lasting symbol of our friendship,” said Thierry Mathou, Ambassador of France to India, while speaking at the opening ceremony of the exercise.

“The aim of this cooperation is to strengthen both our nation’s sovereignty and strategic autonomy, and together advance peace and security in the Indo-Pacific,” he added.