New Delhi: Even as US President Donald Trump claims that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he was unhappy with the “border conflict” with China, Indian government sources pointed out that their last contact had been before the first clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Ladakh.
At a briefing with reporters in Washington, Trump doubled down on his offer to mediate between the India and China – and went even further.
THE PRESIDENT: They have a big conflict going with India and China. Two countries with 1.4 billion people. Two countries with very powerful militaries. And India is not happy, and probably China is not happy. But I can tell you, I did speak to Prime Minister Modi. He’s not — he’s not in a good mood about what’s going on with China. [White House transcript]
Trump reiterated that he was willing to mediate between India and China. “I would do that. You know, I would do that. If they – if they thought it would help if I were the mediator or the arbiter, I would do that. So, we’ll see.”
Through his Twitter account, Trump claimed on Wednesday that US had informed India and China that it was “ready, able and willing” to arbitrate between India and China’s border conflict.
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. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2020
On Thursday, India responded with a single-line statement. “We are engaged with the Chinese side to peacefully resolve this issue,” said MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava.
However, after Trump’s latest claim that the Indian leader had conveyed his unhappiness with China over the latest border clashes, there was no official statement.
Instead, Indian government sources denied the president’s claim. “There has been no recent contact between PM Modi and President Trump. The last conversation between them was on 4 April 2020 on the subject of hydroxychloroquine. Yesterday, MEA had also made it clear that we are directly in touch with the Chinese through established mechanisms and diplomatic contacts,” the sources said.
The scuffle between Indian and Chinese troops at the Pangong Tso lake, which marked the first confrontation in the latest stand-off at eastern Ladakh, took place on May 5. Following this, there was another clash at Naku La in Sikkim. However, the main stand-off continues in Ladakh, where both India and China claim that the other side has changed the status-quo at the border by ramping up military infrastructure.
Trump’s assertion of having a conversation with Modi is reminiscent of his previous claim last year that the Indian prime minister had asked him to mediate on Kashmir.
During Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s White House visit in July 2019, Trump had claimed that Modi had asked him “two weeks ago” to mediate on the Kashmir issue. India had issued an official denial within two hours that “no such request had been made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to US President”.