New Delhi: India told the US Friday that it will use “existing bilateral mechanism” to ease tensions with China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, after American President Donald Trump offered to play mediator for the two Asian giants.
According to defence sources, the message was delivered by Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to his US counterpart Dr Mark T. Esper during a phone conversation Friday evening.
The call was organised at the request of US defence secretary Esper, the Ministry of Defence said in an official statement about the interaction.
There was no mention of China in the statement, which said the two ministers “exchanged views on regional developments of shared security interest” besides talking about their respective experience of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
When asked if China came up, sources in the defence establishment said it had. Rajnath, the sources added, told Esper that India will use the existing bilateral mechanism to deal with the situation with China.
Trump offers to mediate
Earlier in the day, government sources had refuted Trump’s claims that he spoke with Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the phone to discuss the latest border tensions with China.
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Sources said there had been no “recent contact” between Modi and Trump, after the latter claimed to have spoken to the Prime Minister. Trump has been quoted as saying that the Prime Minister was “not in a good mood” regarding the China situation.
Both leaders, the government sources said, had their last conversation on 4 April on the subject of hydroxychloroquine, a drug that is being touted as a potential Covid-19 preventive and treatment.
China rejects mediation offer
Rajnath’s statement to the US comes as even China has rejected the US’ offer to mediate in the current India-China border standoff, reiterating that the two countries have existing communication mechanisms to resolve problems.
“We do not need the intervention of the third party,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian said when asked to comment on US President’s mediation offer.
As reported by ThePrint on 27 May, the Indian Army is waiting for China’s diplomatic overtures about “resolving differences” to translate into action on the ground, even as it continues to keep a close eye on troop build-up in the Galwan Valley, the Hot Springs area and the ‘Finger’ area of the Pangong Lake in eastern Ladakh.
Sources said Friday that there had been no change on the ground in Ladakh, where the two sides have been involved in faceoffs this month.
Among other things, the defence ministry said in its statement that India and the US have vowed to continue the “excellent bilateral cooperation in fighting coronavirus”.
They reviewed progress on various bilateral defence cooperation arrangements and expressed their commitment to further promote our defence partnership, it added.
“To this end, Raksha Mantri invited Secretary Esper to visit India at the earliest mutual convenience, which the latter accepted with pleasure,” the statement said.
Esper also expressed condolence over the lives lost during Cyclone Amphan, and was briefed on India’s relief efforts.
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