France condoles death of 20 Indian soldiers in Galwan; conveys 'steadfast' support to India

New Delhi, Jun 30 (PTI) French Defence Minister Florence Parly has condoled the death of 20 Indian soldiers in a violent clash with Chinese troops in Galwan Valley and conveyed to her Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh France's 'steadfast and friendly' support to India in these 'difficult circumstances', diplomatic sources said Tuesday.

In a letter to Singh on Monday, the French defence minister also offered to visit India soon to explore ways to boost bilateral strategic cooperation, they said.

'This was a hard blow against the soldiers, their families, and the nation. In these difficult circumstances, I wish to express my steadfast and friendly support, along with that of the French armed forces,' the sources quoted her as saying in the letter.

The French defence minister conveyed her condolences to the entire Indian armed forces as well as to the grieving families, they said.

Recalling that India is France's strategic partner in the region, she reiterated her country's deep solidarity with the country and expressed her readiness to visit India to follow up on bilateral talks to deepen defence ties, the sources said.

The Indian and Chinese armies are locked in a bitter standoff in multiple locations in eastern Ladakh for the last seven weeks, and the tension escalated manifold after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a violent clash in Galwan Valley on June 15. The Chinese side also suffered casualties but it is yet to give out the details.

Defence and strategic ties between India and France have been on an upswing in the last few years.

India is likely to received on July 27 the first batch of six Rafale fighter jets from France. The jets are expected to significantly boost the combat capability of the Indian Air Force.

India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore.

On June 2, Singh held a telephonic conversation with Parly during which she conveyed that the Rafale jets will be delivered to India as scheduled notwithstanding the coronavirus pandemic in France.

The aircraft is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. European missile maker MBDA's Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile will be the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale jets.

The first squadron of the aircraft will be stationed at Ambala air force station, considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF.

The aircraft is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. European missile maker MBDA's Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile will be the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale jets Meteor is the next generation of BVR air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat. The weapon has been developed by MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden. PTI MPB RT RT