The government on Friday forcefully rejected U.S. President Donald Trump’s claim that he had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the situation on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, or that the two leaders spoke at all.
Government sources said India would not accept Mr. Trump’s offer to mediate on the stand-off at the LAC, and this was conveyed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to his American counterpart on Friday.
“There has been no recent contact between PM Modi and President Trump. The last conversation between them was on 4 April 2020 on Hydroxychloroquine [HCQ],” said sources in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
According to Defence Ministry sources, Mr. Singh, who discussed issues around COVID-19 and the defence partnership with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper during a telephone call on Friday, used the occasion to convey India’s firm commitment to resolving issues with China bilaterally, “through the established mechanisms that exist between India and China.”
Mr. Singh is understood to have also stressed that the resolution of the month-long stand-off at different points along the LAC in Ladakh and Sikkim could “take some time” but that India and China had in the past managed to resolve border issues without mediation by others.
Government officials told The Hindu that they were taken by surprise by the U.S. President’s comments, particularly his reference to Mr. Modi’s “mood” when Mr. Trump claimed to have spoken to him.
“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,” Mr. Trump told reporters at White House on Thursday (Friday morning India time).
When asked by reporters about his offer of mediation on the “raging border dispute” between India and China, made first in a tweet on Thursday, Mr. Trump said he would be willing to broker talks between the two countries if “it would help”.
“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,” Mr. Trump told a correspondent from PTI news agency who asked him about his tweet.
However, the MEA sources reiterated that the Ministry’s official spokesperson Anurag Srivastava “made it clear” on Thursday that India was “directly in touch with the Chinese through established mechanisms and diplomatic contacts.”