The United States said that it is closely watching the tension between India and China along the border in Ladakh and wants to ensure that the situation does not escalate, NDTV reported on Saturday. The remark came ahead of the third “2+2 dialogue” between India and the US, scheduled to begin in Delhi on Monday.
“We as a government are covering the situation in the Himalayas closely and understandably,” US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Dean Thompson said. “And we certainly want to ensure that the situation does not escalate.”
Thompson added that the situation along the Line of Actual Control will be discussed at the key meeting, according to News18. “I think both sides have expressed a desire to de-escalate violence.”
The top official said that US had been offering strategic help to India. “We are providing support, whether through defence sales, exercises as well as information sharing,” he said. “These are all areas where we cooperate with the Indians, not just with the tension in the Himalayas.”
The US official appreciated India’s decision to include Australia in the Malabar naval exercise. “Given China’s increasingly aggressive behaviour across the Indo-Pacific from the Himalayas to the South China Sea, it is more important than ever that we work with like-minded partners such as India,” he was quoted as saying by NDTV. “We were pleased to see India’s recent announcement regarding Australia joining the Malabar Naval exercise.”
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark T Esper will travel to India to hold talks with External Affair Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on October 26 and 27.
Besides expected talks about China, one of the items on the agenda of the “2+2” dialogue will be the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement, or the BECA. It largely pertains to geospatial intelligence, and sharing information on maps and satellite images for defence.
Earlier this month, Pompeo had said that the “quad” alliance comprising of India, US, Japan and Australia could be a “fabric” to counter Chinese threat. “Once we’ve institutionalised what we’re doing – the four of us together – we can begin to build out a true security framework,” Pompeo had told Nikkei Asia ahead of the Second Quad Ministerial Meeting in Tokyo.
In June, Pompeo had called on India and said the border clashes initiated by the Chinese military against India in Ladakh were the latest example of the “unacceptable behaviour” of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Military heads of the two countries have engaged in several rounds of talks over the last three months after 20 Indian and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed in violent clashes in Galwan Valley in Ladakh on June 15. However, these talks have failed to break the impasse.
Beijing had said last Wednesday that it does not recognise Indian sovereignty over Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, claiming that India had illegally occupied Ladakh. In response, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said that China has no locus standi to comment on the matter. The ministry said Ladakh as well as Arunachal Pradesh are integral parts of India and this has been conveyed to the Chinese side on many occasions.
After the sixth round of military talks on September 22, India and China had resolved to stop sending more troops to the frontline amid the border standoff. Both countries also agreed to take practical measures to properly solve problems on the ground and ensure peace in the border areas.
On September 10, S Jaishankar met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. The two ministers agreed on a five-point plan to defuse tensions between the countries and said the current situation in the border areas of Ladakh was “not in the interest of either side”. They agreed, therefore, that the border troops of both sides should “continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions”.