French Defence Minister Florence Parly has written a letter to her Indian counterpart, Rajnath Singh, condoling the death of 20 Indian soldiers in Galwan Valley, and offering to visit India to boost bilateral strategic cooperation, French diplomatic sources said on Tuesday.
Referring to the death of the soldiers, Parly conveyed to Singh in the letter on Monday her "steadfast and friendly" support along with that of the French armed forces in these "difficult circumstances".
"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.
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 receive 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
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.