Washington: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday offered to “mediate or arbitrate” what he called a “now raging border dispute” between India and China. The comment refers to a build up along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by Indian and Chinese armies following a recent face-off in Ladakh.
“We have informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing and able to mediate or arbitrate their now raging border dispute. Thank you!,” President Trump tweeted.
President Trump’s previous offers to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir were firmly rebuffed by New Delhi, which has long asserted that there is no role for any third party in bilateral issues. Several areas along the LAC in Ladakh and North Sikkim have seen a military build-up by the Indian and Chinese armies in a sign of escalating tension and hardening of positions by the two nations two weeks after they were engaged in separate face-offs in Sikkim and Ladakh.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a high-level meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss the stand-off with China, sources said. The three service chiefs, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat attended the meeting. A separate meeting was held earlier with the foreign secretary. Satellite pictures have shown that Beijing is expanding an airbase near Ladakh. Close shots have even revealed fighter jets on the tarmac.
India has said the Chinese military has been hindering normal patrolling by its troops. Officials have strongly refuted Beijing’s claim that tension between the two armies was triggered by Indian forces trespassing on the Chinese side. New Delhi has asserted that it has always taken a very responsible approach towards border management. “Any suggestion that Indian troops had undertaken activity across the LAC in the Western sector or the Sikkim sector is not accurate. Indian troops are fully familiar with the alignment of the Line of Actual Control in the India-China border areas and abide by it scrupulously,” foreign ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at an online media briefing last week.
Reports coming from China last night said President Xi Jinping had ordered the military to scale up battle preparedness, visualising worst-case scenarios, and asked his troops to resolutely defend the country’s sovereignty.
On a more conciliatory note hours later, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters that the situation at the border was “overall stable”. “We are committed to safeguarding our territorial sovereignty and security, and safeguarding peace and stability in the border areas. Now the China-India border area situation is overall stable and controllable,” said Zhao.
China’s military friction with the US has also been on the rise with the American navy stepping its patrols in the disputed South China Sea as well as the Taiwan Straits. Washington and Beijing have also engaged in a war of words over the origin of the coronavirus pandemic.