BY ARUL LOUIS
New York, Sep 5 (IANS) US President Donald Trump has asserted that Washington was talking to India and China on resolving “a very nasty situation” in the Ladakh region, but equivocated on whether Beijing was a bully.
He said on Friday at a Washington news conference: “We stand ready to help with respect to China and India. If we can do anything we will have to get involved and help. And we are talking to both countries about that.”
“It’s been very nasty, a very nasty situation,” he said about the confrontation between the two sides along the Line of Actual (LAC) in Ladakh, where China has fortified its troop presence and, according to India carried out “provocative military movements” on the southern bank of Pangong Tso lake between Sunday and Monday.
Asked by a reporter if China was bullying India, he said: “I hope not, I hope not. They are certainly going at it, and they are going it at very much more strongly than a lot of people even understand.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had on Wednesday accused China of bullying its neighbors.
“From the Taiwan Strait to the Himalayas and beyond, the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in a clear and intensifying pattern of bullying its neighbors,” he said.
But he added, “We are hoping for a peaceful resolution of the situation on the India-China border.”
Trump’s offer of mediation, which both countries have refused, is a reiteration of an earlier mediation bid in May.
This was similar to Trump’s attempts to mediate between India and Pakistan that was snubbed by New Delhi, which considers their disputes as bilateral issues covered by their 1972 agreement between Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistan’s then-President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
While Trump has been critical of China on several issues and saying it poses a global threat to the US, he has hesitated to take a definitive stand on the India-China conflict.
The two nuclear nations have remained locked in a stand-off along the LAC in Ladakh since June this year.
A fresh face-off erupted last Sunday when India pre-emptively thwarted Chinese intentions to unilaterally change the status quo on the Southern Bank of Pangong Tso in Eastern Ladakh.
Both the countries are engaged in a continuous dialogue at both military and diplomatic levels.
This was not the first time that Trump offered to mediate between the two Asian giants. Both India and China, in the past, rejected the offer.
Bashing China, the US President said: “China at this point is the nation you should be talking about much more so than Russia because the things that China is doing are far worse. Look at what happened with the China virus, look at what they have done to 188 countries all over the world.”
Admitting that he “gets along with every country” except China, he said, he “did not like what is happening with respect to the pandemic”.”I do not like it at all. What they have done to this world, this country, Europe and every place else is terrible,” Trump said.
Meanwhile, India’s foreign secretary Harsh Shringla corroborated Trump’s description of the crisis.
The situation on the LAC between India and China is “unprecedented” and it cannot be “business as usual”, Shringla said while addressing a webinar at the Indian Council for World Affairs (ICWA).
“The LAC situation is one of the most serious challenges we have faced in many years. The magnitude of the crisis is huge given that we had not lost lives in 40 years. As far as we are concerned, there will be no compromise in our sovereignty and territorial integrity. At the same time, as a responsible nation, we are always willing to talk. Our communication lines are open,” Shringla said.
“Also, we have not seen this magnitude of amassing of forces on the border in recent years. This is something that we have to take stock of,” he added.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)
BY ARUL LOUIS