New Delhi: India on Thursday said it was engaged with China to peacefully resolve the ongoing border row, signaling an indication that it was not open to accepting US President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate between the two Asian giants to end their military standoff in eastern Ladakh.
“We are engaged with the Chinese side to peacefully resolve it,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at an online media briefing while replying to a volley of questions on India’s reaction to the US president’s mediation offer.
He said India was engaged with China at military and diplomatic levels to resolve the standoff in eastern Ladakh, but at the same time asserted that the country is “firm” in its resolve to protect its sovereignty and national security.
Trump to mediate
In the midst of the latest flare-ups between Indian and Chinese armies, Trump on Wednesday said he was “ready, willing and able to mediate” between the two countries.
“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,” Trump said in a tweet on Wednesday morning.
The sudden offer was seen as an attempt to irk Beijing as it came following rising hostilities between the US and China on a range of issues.
When asked, the MEA spokesperson did not reply to questions like whether the US had approached India with the offer, whether New Delhi has communicated its response over it to Washington or whether the Trump administration has been briefed about the current standoff between Chinese and Indian soldiers in eastern Ladakh.
Trump previously offered to mediate between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, a proposal which was rejected by New Delhi.
Asked about the situation in Eastern Ladakh, Srivastava said India is committed to the objective of maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas and Chinese and Indian armed forces scrupulously follow the consensus reached by leaders of the two countries on the matter.
“At the same time, we remain firm in our resolve to ensuring India’s sovereignty and national security,” he said.
The MEA spokesperson said the Indian troops take a very responsible approach towards border management and strictly follow the procedures laid out in various bilateral agreements and protocols with China to resolve any issue that may arise in the border areas.
“The two sides have established mechanisms both at military and diplomatic levels to resolve situations which may arise in border areas peacefully through dialogue and continue to remain engaged through these channels,” he said.
Trump’s unexpected offer came on a day when China took an apparently conciliatory approach by saying that the situation at the border with India is “overall stable and controllable.”
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday that both China and India have proper mechanisms and communication channels to resolve the issues through dialogue and consultations.
Tussle between soldiers
The situation in eastern Ladakh deteriorated after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on the evening of May 5 which spilled over to the next day before the two sides agreed to “disengage” following a meeting at the level of local commanders.
Over 100 Indian and Chinese soldiers were injured in the violence.
It is learnt that the Chinese side was particularly peeved at India laying a key road in the Finger area of Pangong Tso Lake besides another road connecting the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in Galwan Valley.
The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in north Sikkim on May 9.
It is learnt that both India and China are looking at a solution to the issue through talks.
On May 5, the Indian and the Chinese army personnel clashed with iron rods, sticks, and even resorted to stone-pelting in the Pangong Tso lake area in which soldiers on both sides sustained injuries.
In a separate incident, nearly 150 Indian and Chinese military personnel were engaged in a face-off near Naku La Pass in the Sikkim sector on May 9. At least 10 soldiers from both sides sustained injuries.
Standoff in 2017
The troops of India and China were engaged in a 73-day stand-off in Doklam tri-junction in 2017 which even triggered fears of a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long LAC. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet while India contests it.
Both sides have been asserting that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, it is necessary to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.