US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday mourned the demise of India's first Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat in a helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu. My deep condolences on the deaths of Indian Chief of Defence Staff General Rawat, his wife and colleagues who perished in today's tragic accident, Blinken said.

We'll remember Gen. Rawat as an exceptional leader who served his country and contributed to the US-India defence relationship, he said.

Defence Secretary Austin said: General Rawat left an indelible mark on the course of the US-India defence partnership and was at the centre of the Indian Armed Forces' transformation into a more jointly integrated warfighting organisation.

Austin said that he had the privilege of meeting with him earlier this year and viewed him as a valued partner and friend of the United States. I and the Department extend our deepest condolences to the Rawat family, the Indian military, and the people of India after the tragic passing of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat in a helicopter crash, he said.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Rawat family and the families of the other victims of the crash. We are deeply saddened by this loss, Austin added. In a statement, the US-India Strategic and Partnership Forum said that it is deeply saddened by the tragic demise of CDS General Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 others in the helicopter crash this afternoon.

Our thoughts go out to the families of the brave souls lost today. We mourn with the nation at the loss of these patriots," USISPDF said. As India's first Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Rawat spearheaded a historic period of transformation in the Indian military, tweeted the US Embassy in India.

He was a strong friend and partner of the US, overseeing a major expansion of India's defence cooperation with the US military. His legacy will continue on, it added.