France has expressed “deep solidarity” over the death of 20 Indian soldiers in a violent-face-off with Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), with French defence minister Florence Parly conveying “steadfast and friendly support” to her Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh.
Parly wrote a letter to Singh on Monday, condoling the death of the 20 Indian soldiers in the clash in Galwan Valley on June 15, people familiar with developments 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,” Parly wrote in the letter.
Parly also recalled that India is France’s strategic partner in the region and reiterated France’s “deep solidarity” in the letter.
She also expressed her readiness to meet Singh in India, at his invitation, to follow up on their ongoing discussions, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.
Parly also conveyed her “heartfelt condolences to the entire Indian armed forces as well as to the grieving families” of the 20 soldiers.
Indian and Chinese troops have been engaged in a months-old tense standoff along the LAC, especially in Ladakh sector, where both sides have deployed thousands of additional troops.
France, a key supplier of frontline combat jets to the Indian Air Force (IAF) for decades, has stepped up its defence engagements with India in recent years and both sides are working on closer naval cooperation, including joint exercises and patrols, in the Indian Ocean region.
Paris has also acted on a special request from New Delhi to speed up deliveries of 36 Rafale combat jets ordered by India in a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore in 2016, with six of the planes expected to land at the airbase in Ambala on July 27.
France is reworking the calendar for supplying the Rafales to India at a faster pace, people familiar with developments said on Monday. IAF ordered the jets as an emergency purchase to arrest a worrying slide in its combat capabilities.
Earlier, the first batch of Rafales to be delivered to India in 2020 was expected to comprise four jets. France has stepped up efforts to meet IAF’s immediate requirements.
The people said around 10 Rafale jets are ready at manufacturer Dassault Aviation’s Merignac facility and six of them will be flown by IAF pilots to India via Abu Dhabi in late July.