India and France to hold 6th edition of bilateral Army exercise

Continuing its series of joint training exercises with friendly nations, the Indian Army will conduct the sixth edition of its exercise with the French Army starting next week.

India has already conducted joint Air Force and Naval exercises with France earlier in the year.

The Army in a statement on Friday said Shakti 2021, the sixth edition of the biennial training exercise, will be conducted from November 15 to November 26 in Frejus, France. A platoon strength of a Gorkha Rifles Infantry Battalion will participate in the exercise, while the French side is being represented by troops of 21st Marine Infantry Regiment of the 6th Light Armoured Brigade.

The Army said the exercise “will focus on Counter Terrorism operations in backdrop of semi-urban terrain under United Nations Mandate with an aim to enhance military cooperation and inter-operability between the two Armies”.

The last edition of the Shakti exercise had taken place at the Foreign Training Node in Mahajan Field Firing Ranges, Rajasthan in 2019, in which “Counter Terrorism operations in semi-desert terrain were practised and validated”, said the Army.

The statement mentioned that Gorkha Rifles contingent, representing the Indian Army “has a rich heritage marked by its military valour and supreme sacrifices with a glorious history of 68 years” and its contributions in 1971 war were recognised by Battle Honour Shingo River Valley and Theatre Honour of Jammu & Kashmir.

The French Army contingent participating, was raised in 1831 under the name of 2nd Marine Regiment and later renamed as 21st Marine Infantry Regiment in 1901, and has an “illustrious operational history of more than 120 years and has participated in all the major wars of French Army”. The regiment, the statement said, “specialises in amphibious warfare and has varied operational experiences in Africa, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Mali”.

India and France carry out three biennial training exercises — Exercise Garuda with the Indian Air Force, Exercise Varuna with the Indian Navy and Exercise Shakti with Indian Army.

Exercise Desert Knight-21, between the Air Forces of the two nations, was held in January at the Jodhpur Air Force Station, with fighter jets from both nations, mid-air refuellers and airborne warning and control system (AWACS) platforms participating. The two forces had conducted six editions of Exercise Garuda earlier, the last being in 2019.

In April, the two Navies participated in the 19th edition of the Varuna exercise in the Arabian Sea. While the French Navy was represented by aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle with Rafale-M fighters, helicopters and other warships, Indian frigates, stealth destroyers, helicopters, submarines and reconnaissance aircraft had participated.

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