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'Unpredictable' Trump Has No Credibility: Experts on US Mediation Over India, China Border Dispute


New Delhi (Sputnik): As border tensions between the India and China are rising, and US President Donald Trump has not only offered to mediate between the Asian giants but even said that he talked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, adding that “he is not in a good mood about what's going on with China”.

India and China have been in a border stand-off since the last week of April, when both countries moved troops up to border areas in Ladakh, Sikkim and Uttarakhand.

The border stand-off was followed by violent clashes in eastern Ladakh as both sides patrolled the border areas on 5 May and an intense face-off near Naku La in the Sikkim sector on 8 May, which left 11 soldiers, four Indian and seven Chinese, injured.

Amid the rising tensions between the Asian giants, US President Donald Trump has not only offered to mediate between the two countries, but he has claimed to have discussed the matter with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

​While Trump’s mediation offer may not come as a surprise considering his offers in the past to intervene between India and Pakistan, India is not keen to involve the US.

Mediation is against India's stated policy and he [the US President] has no credibility with the Chinese, India’s strategic expert Maj Gen BK Sharma, head of national security and defence services think tank United Service Institution, believes .

“He [Trump] is unpredictable and it is best for India is to shrug off and not talk too much. He is habitual of off-the-cuff remarks,” Sharma said on Trump’s offer.

Trump: A Nose Poker!

The mediation offer also might have lost its genuineness considering Trump’s China bashing in recent months over the COVID-19 outbreak. The world is also familiar with the ongoing Sino-US tensions amid the trade war, which have been reflected in Washington’s actions in targeting China over Beijing’s increasing technological domination, control in Hong Kong and naval movements in the South China Sea.

US Ambassador Alice Wells drew parallels between the confrontation in the Himalayas and recent developments in the South China Sea. Wells termed China's actions on the border with India, as well as in the South China Sea, "constant aggression", "constant attempts" to change existing norms and the status quo.
Indian prominent strategic thinker at the Centre for Policy Research, Brahma Chellaney, while professing U.S. neutrality as an arbitrator, says Trump’s tweet had three effects — first it raised the international salience of the border standoffs, second it made it harder for Beijing or New Delhi to play down the crisis and lastly, it provoked China's ire.

Analysts believe the US wants to use the current India-China tension to its benefit, as it did not bother to intervene in the longest stand-off between the Asian neighbours at the Doklam plateau in 2017.

In 2018, over the proposal of adding a military dimension to the Quad alliance between the United States, India, Japan and Australia, then-Indian Navy Chief Sunil Lanba pointed out: "We have to be cognizant of the fact that among the Quad members we are the only one who has the land border with China. Can we expect any members of the Quad, in case there is a difference of opinion and conflict on our northern border, to come to our rescue? Nobody will come and hold your hand”.

Mediator for A Cause or Domestic Compulsion?

India’s External Affairs Ministry on Thursday refused Trump’s mediation offer and said that “the two sides have established a mechanism at diplomatic and military to peacefully resolve the issue. Following the guidance by the leaders. Engagement continues at Delhi and Beijing”.

However, this is not the first time that the US President offered to act as a mediator and India “categorically” rejected it. Before his visit to India in February, Trump had offered to mediate between India and Pakistan over Kashmir three times. He even brought up good relations with Pakistan at the Namaste Trump programme in Ahmedabad.

On Thursday, while reiterating his desire to mediate, Trump mentioned having talked with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said he was “not in a good mood about what’s going on with China”. India rejected Trump's characterisation of events.  

Indian strategic expert at think tank Observer Research Foundation, Harsh Pant, believes that Trump’s offer doesn’t have any operational validity, “partly because mediation can only happen when India and China both agree for mediation”. It is more for PR, more for his own standing as an American President for his domestic constituency as well as poking the finger at the Chinese, Pant told Sputnik.

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.