The United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday offered to mediate or arbitrate between India and China to help the two neighbouring nations resolve the boundary dispute, which once again reached a flashpoint this month.
“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,” the US President posted on Twitter, amid continuing build-up by both Indian Army and Chinese People’s Liberation Army along the disputed boundary between the two nations on the northern bank of the Pangong Tso lake in eastern Ladakh.
His tweet came just a week after senior US diplomat, Alice G Wells, said that China’s recent build-up along its disputed boundary with India was not just “rhetorical”, but was a “reminder of the threat” posed by the communist country.
Trump over the past few months repeatedly offered to mediate between India and Kashmir and help them resolve the dispute over Kashmir. His proposal elated Pakistan, but it was steadfastly rejected by India. New Delhi underlined that the 1972 Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan and the 1999 Lahore Declaration by the leaders of the two nations had left no scope for any third party to play any role in settling outstanding disputes between the two South Asian neighbours.
This is however the first time that Trump has offered to mediate between India and China and help them settle the protracted dispute over the boundary.
But New Delhi is likely to cold-shoulder his latest offer. It is also unlikely to find any taker in Beijing. Both sides are likely to reaffirm commitment to the talks at the level of Special Representatives to find “a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution” to the boundary dispute.
The Special Representatives of India and China had started talks to resolve the boundary dispute in 2003. They reached an agreement in 2005 on the political parameters and guiding principles for settlement of the dispute. They have since been engaged in talks to finalise a framework, which will be followed by actual demarcation of the border.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is currently the Special Representative of India for boundary negotiations with China. Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang Yi is his counterpart. The two Special Representatives held the 22nd round of negotiations in New Delhi on December 21 last year.
Trump’s offer to mediate between New Delhi and Beijing came at a time when the US-China relations once again came under strain. The US President launched a tirade against China, blaming the communist country for the COVID-19 pandemic. New Delhi, however, treaded cautiously, and has not joined the US in criticising China for the alleged failure to contain the spread of the virus.
The US has been stepping up cooperation with India and other countries in the Indo-Pacific region over the past few years – ostensibly to counter hegemonic aspirations of China. Keen to make sure that its approach does not appear to be overtly adversarial to China; India, however, tweaked its policy and stated that its own vision for Indo-Pacific was inclusive and not aimed at containing any other nation.