The French Navy’s amphibious assault ship Tonnerre and the frigate Surcouf arrived on the morning of March 30 at the Kochi port in Kerala ahead of La Perouse joint naval exercise, which will see France leading maneuvers in the Bay of Bengal that will involve the navies of the four members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad. —Australia, India, Japan, and the United States.
The Tonnerre, an amphibious assault helicopter carrier, and the Surcouf, a La Fayette-class frigate, will be in Kochi till April 1, and then sail to the Bay of Bengal for the joint exercise.
Called ‘La Perouse’, after the well-known French navigator Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse (1741–88), the naval exercise will be led by the French Navy and is scheduled to be held in the Bay of Bengal from April 5 to 7.
The 2021 edition of ‘La Perouse’, will witness for the first time all four Quad members taking part in it. The first ‘La Perouse’ exercise took place in 2019. This is the first time that the Indian Navy will be taking part in the France-led war game.
The Tonnerre and the Surcouf form the task group Jeanne d’Arc, which left France in February for a five-month deployment in the Indo-Pacific to demonstrate France’s capacity to deploy assets in strategic areas and to strengthen interoperability with major partners in the region, particularly India, the French embassy said in a statement on Wednesday.
The deployment will also help train a new batch of 148 French naval officer cadets.
French ambassador Emmanuel Lenain, who was in Kochi to welcome the two warships, said: “I am proud of the exceptional level of trust and interoperability that our navies have achieved. It is no surprise that India and the Indo-Pacific are at the heart of the training for the new generation of French Navy officers.”
The La Pérouse exercise will be “a concrete demonstration of multilateralism at sea and our commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific”, Lenain said.
After the joint exercise, the two French warships will continue their deployment across the Indo-Pacific and sail to Japan, before returning to France in mid-July. During their voyage, the warships will sail through the South China Sea twice.