The Indian foreign ministry has not immediately responded to Trump’s tweet on mediation. (Bloomberg)

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Trump wades into India-China dispute with tweet to arbitrate


NEW DELHI : US President Donald Trump on Wednesday waded into the border standoff between India and China as he offered to “mediate" or “arbitrate" 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. Thank you!" Trump said in a Twitter post.

India’s foreign ministry did not immediately offer a response.

The surprising offer came on a day when China indicated a dialling down of tensions following military build-up by Indian and Chinese armies in Sikkim and Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control after physical fights with exchange of blows earlier this month.

Trump’s intervention, which is seen by analysts as playing to a domestic audience in the US on an election year, risks internationalizing what is essentially seen as a bilateral India-China dispute that could in turn, lead to a hardening of stances by both nations.

The offer came hours after Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing that the situation at the border with India is “overall stable and controllable," and both nations have proper mechanisms and communication channels to resolve the issues through dialogue and consultation.

Trump has in the past offered multiple times to mediate between India and Pakistan —an offer India has politely but firmly refused.

People familiar with India-China relations and US-China ties said both countries would reject Trump’s offer.

Kanwal Sibal, India’s former foreign secretary, termed Trump’s comments “unfortunate" and said it sent out a “very negative signal" that the US does not accept India’s position in the matter. If the US president had said that the US was “watching the situation that would have been helpful," Sibal said.

Trump’s offer has also surprised analysts as it comes amid severe strains in US-China relationship over trade and the spread of covid-19 that has infected 5.6 million people globally and killed 351,000. In the US alone, the death toll is reaching the 100,000 mark with Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leading global criticism against China for its alleged role in keeping the emergence of covid-19 under wraps.

Ahead of the offer from Trump, the Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing had indicated room for a possible thaw in tensions.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: “Between the two countries, we have good border-related mechanism and communication channels."

“We are capable of resolving the issues properly though dialogue and consultation," he said, confirming reports that diplomatic efforts were on to ease the border tensions." “This includes the communication between border troops and between our diplomatic missions," he added.

In a related development, the US has certified that Hong Kong is no longer politically autonomous from China, a move that could have far-reaching consequences on the special trading status the former British colony has with the US, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said.

“Hong Kong does not continue to warrant treatment under US laws in the same manner as US laws were applied to [it]before July 1997," Pompeo said in a statement. “No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground."

Bloomberg contributed to this story.

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