US President Donald Trump. (AFP photo)

Strategic affairs experts criticise Trump's offer to mediate between India and China on border row


India and China have a robust mechanism to resolve their long-pending border dispute and there was no scope for any third party intervention, strategic affairs experts said on Wednesday, criticising US President Donald Trump's offer to mediate on the contentious issue.

"It is an unsolicited offer which President Trump has made," former Indian Ambassador to the US Meera Shankar said.

Shankar told PTI that perhaps President Trump's offer was driven by his efforts to make an "image of himself as a great negotiator" as he often attempts to get into negotiations in resolution of big problems.

Read: US President Donald Trump offers to 'mediate or arbitrate' between India and China

In a surprise move, Trump on Wednesday offered to "mediate or arbitrate" on the raging border dispute between India and China, saying he was "ready, willing and able" to ease the tensions. His offer came amid the continuing standoff between Indian and Chinese armies in Ladakh.

Trump previously offered to mediate between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, a proposal which was rejected by New Delhi.

Former Indian Ambassador to Russia P S Raghavan too echoed what Shankar said, noting that external mediation actually have not worked in most complex bilateral issues.

"We have never asked for any outside intervention in resolution of any of our bilateral issues. We have a robust dialogue with both our neighbours -- Pakistan and China. We have mechanisms, we have dialogues and we are dealing with bilateral issues under the framework of these mechanisms," he said.

"I do not think there is anything more that needs to be said about it," Raghavan said.

Asked whether Trump attempted to put pressure on China by making the offer, the strategic affairs expert said he did not think so.

"A lot of people make offers of mediation from a position of goodwill, but at the same time we have a position that we maintained for last many decades that we can deal with bilateral issues with our neighbours under the framework of bilateral dialogue," he said.

Raghavan said he did not want to speculate on what prompted the US president to make the offer.

Strategic affairs expert Ambassador Ashok K Kantha too said both India and China have a robust mechanism to deal with the border issues.

"Our position has been that we deal with our bilateral border issues under the laid down mechanisms. Both India and China are handling it under specific framework. We never sought any outside intervention," he said.

Ambassador Shankar said India is capable of protecting its interests as Indian troops are demonstrating their firmness in maintaining their positions along the Line of Actual Control without any fear.

Referring to Trump's earlier offer to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, Shankar said it died a natural death after the US State Department clarified on the matter.

"It was not a matter of US policy to mediate. The US State Department made its position clear on the issue following which the offer died a natural death," she said.

In a predawn tweet, Trump said, "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's unexpected offer came on a day when China took an apparently conciliatory tone by saying that the situation at the border with India is "overall stable and controllable."

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said both China and India have proper mechanisms and communication channels to resolve the issues through dialogue and consultations.

Last week, a senior US diplomat accused China of engaging in border clashes with India in an attempt to shift the status quo.

The situation in eastern Ladakh deteriorated after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on the evening of May 5 which spilled over to the next day before the two sides agreed to "disengage" following a meeting at the level of local commanders.

Over 100 Indian and Chinese soldiers were injured in the violence.

The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in north Sikkim on May 9.

On the face-off in eastern Ladakh, India last week said that it has always taken a very responsible approach towards border management but the Chinese military was hindering normal patrolling by its troops.

It is learnt that both India and China are looking at a solution to the issue through talks.

On May 5, the Indian and the Chinese army personnel clashed with iron rods, sticks, and even resorted to stone-pelting in the Pangong Tso lake area in which soldiers on both sides sustained injuries.

In a separate incident, nearly 150 Indian and Chinese military personnel were engaged in a face-off near Naku La Pass in the Sikkim sector on May 9. At least 10 soldiers from both sides sustained injuries.

The troops of India and China were engaged in a 73-day stand-off in Doklam tri-junction in 2017 which even triggered fears of a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long LAC. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet while India contests it.

Both sides have been asserting that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, it is necessary to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas.