New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump held a phone conversation Tuesday in which they discussed the ongoing India-China border standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, days after the American President offered to “mediate or arbitrate” between New Delhi and Beijing.
Trump and Modi, both of who last spoke on 4 April over the issue of India exporting hydroxychloroquine to the US, also discussed the prospect of New Delhi joining the elite Group of Seven, or G7, countries.
In the 25-minute phone call, the two leaders also discussed the need for reforms at the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), both leaders discussed the “situation on the India-China border, and the need for reforms in the World Health Organisation”.
Modi also tweeted about the phone conversation with Trump, saying they “discussed his plans for the US Presidency of G-7, the Covid-19 pandemic, and many other issues”.
The phone call comes in the backdrop of Defence Ministry Rajnath Singh’s remark that Chinese troops are present in “sizeable numbers” along the LAC in eastern Ladakh.
US ‘concerns’ over Chinese aggression
The US had been commenting on the India-China border dispute relentlessly this time.
Trump had last month claimed he spoke to Modi and that he was “not in a good mood” as India and China are having a “big conflict”.
India, however, denied such claims and said it would resolve the border tensions with China “peacefully” through established mechanisms between both sides at diplomatic and military levels.
On Monday, top US Congressman Eliot L. Engel, who heads the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said he is “extremely concerned” over the ongoing Chinese aggression along the LAC.
“China is demonstrating once again that it is willing to bully its neighbours rather than resolve conflicts according to international law. Countries must all abide by the same set of rules so that we don’t live in a world where ‘might makes right’,” he said.
Earlier last month, Alice G. Wells, the outgoing Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, had said whether it’s in the South China Sea or along the border with India, China continues to show its “disturbing behaviour” that “raises questions about how China seeks to use its growing power”.
India and China got engaged in the border standoff earlier last month across several areas of the LAC in Ladakh region.
The matter escalated when Indian troops tried to prevent the People’s Liberation Army from crossing the LAC and entering the Galwan River valley and the adjoining ‘finger’ area along the Pangong Tso.
Reforms at WHO
Trump has urged India to focus on reforms at the WHO amid a public spat between the US and China over the role played by the multilateral health body in the coronavirus pandemic and for allegedly acting in Beijing’s interest.
India last month assumed the chairmanship of the Executive Board of the WHO. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan is set to take charge as the chairman of the board.
Invitation to attend G-7 Summit
According to the MEA statement, Trump “conveyed his desire to expand the ambit of the grouping beyond the existing membership, to include other important countries, including India. In this context, he extended an invitation to Prime Minister Modi to attend the next G-7 Summit to be held in the USA”.
G7 is a group of seven developed economies — the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada — of the world.
Trump has postponed the G7 Summit until September and expressed his desire to expand the “outdated” bloc to G10 or G11, to include India, Russia, Australia and South Korea, which has upset China.
In this context, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a media briefing Tuesday: “We believe this is the role of the overwhelming majority of the countries in the world. Any attempt to seek a small circle against China is doomed to fail and is unpopular.”
Modi, meanwhile, also “expressed concern regarding the ongoing civil disturbances in the US, and conveyed his best wishes for an early resolution of the situation,” the MEA statement said.
The United States has been gripped by protests over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, who died last week while being restrained by Minneapolis police.