WASHINGTON: The United States has expressed support for a "peaceful resolution of the current situation" between India and China, even as an American diplomat who had presciently warned last month of Beijing’s aggressive intent vis-a-vis New Delhi and the region said "India will come out of this crisis with the full support of like-minded countries."
Nearly 48 hours after the bloody border clash between Indian and Chinese troops in Galwan, Washington’s position on the matter remained circumspect while it was itself engaged in high-level bilateral parleys with Beijing in Hawaii.
"Both India and China have expressed a desire to de-escalate, and we support a peaceful resolution of the current situation," a State Department spokesperson said in response to a query, adding, that the US is "closely monitoring the situation between Indian and Chinese forces along the Line of Actual Control," and offering condolences on the death of 20 soldiers that the Indian military has announced.
The spokesperson also noted, without elaborating, that "during their phone call on June 2, 2020, President Trump and Prime Minister Modi discussed the situation on the India-China border." Trump had offered on Twitter to mediate between the two sides but has remained conspicuously silence amid the current bloody clash.
However, a key diplomat who recently demitted the South Asia portfolio was more forthcoming on the issue, saying "PRC actions — provocative border rumble with India, aggressions against Vietnam and Malaysia, threats to Taiwan, and repression in HK— require more, not less, US diplomacy."
"Deescalation is critical, as is diplomatic resolution of issues related to the line of actual control, but India will come out of this crisis with the full support of like-minded countries," the diplomat, Alice Wells, who was till recently the US pointperson for South Asia, tweeted on Tuesday with the hashtag #USindia.
Wells had presciently warned of China’s aggressive postures as recently as May. "For anyone who was under any illusions that Chinese aggression was only rhetorical, I think they need to speak to India," she told the Atlantic Council think tank last month, adding, "If you look to the South China Sea, there's a method here to Chinese operations, and it is that constant aggression, the constant attempt to shift the norms, to shift what is the status quo."
"It has to be resisted," she had said.
On record after Monday's clash though, neither the State Department nor the White House chose to comment, much less express support for India, evidently not wanting to queer the pitch during its own difficult ongoing engagement with China with a quiet meeting in Hawaii between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and top Chinese mandarin Yang Jiechi.
State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus tweeted out condolences about recent ISIS killing in Nigeria but took no note of the India-China bloodbath. President Trump’s voluble Twitter feed was also conspicuously silent on the matter till the time of writing, some 48 hours after the clash.
While news of the clash barely made any news in China, ignored in the official media and buried on Page 16 in its English mouthpiece Global Times, it had Washington’s strategic community astir given the current tensions between US and China over the coronavirus pandemic.
Urging the Trump administration to "take a stand against China’s increasing bullying," James Carafano of the conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation invoked Washington’s characterization of India as an important American partner for peace and stability in the region, and said "Beijing ought to have no illusions about where America stands. The US stands with our friends."
"The US needs to step up and remind Chinese leaders, yet again, that we have no patience for their global petulance. It also needs to assure India that the US has its back," Carafano said on Fox News, maintaining that the source of the current tensions lies mostly with the Chinese because for months they have "ratcheted up the frequency of small-scale border confrontations, trying to pressure India into complying with China’s view of the border."
"We should stand with our friends in resisting territorial aggression by the Chinese Communist Party, whether in the South China Sea or the Himalayan border with India. The US should let Beijing know we expect the recent standoff is resolved without any further loss of life and call on China to return to the pre-May status quo," he added.
In Video:India-China face-off: ‘Closely monitoring’ situation, says US