Three Indian Navy ships on Monday began the first phase of the Varuna series of joint exercise with the French Navy in the Mediterranean while a fourth warship is on its way to the UK to take part in another drill with the Royal Navy next month.

Guided missile destroyer INS Mumbai, stealth frigate INS Trishul and fleet tanker INS Aditya have entered Toulon, France for the overseas deployment, while stealth frigate INS Tarkash is on its way to Plymouth for Konkon 2017 exercise with the Royal Navy.

On their way back, the ships would stop at Israel and Egypt- the two nations likely to be visited by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi later this year.

Started around 2000, the two exercises grew into an institutionalised form of interaction between the two navies. The last Varuna exercise was held off the Indian coast. Similarly, the previous Konkon exercise occurred off Mumbai and Goa in December 2016.

In France, the Indian side is led by Vice Admiral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command, who would visit the French frigate FNS Auvergne, a French nuclear submarine and an underwater weapons facility.