WASHINGTON: The US has said that it encourages India and China to utilise existing bilateral channels to discuss their disputed boundaries, even as it strongly opposed any “unilateral attempts” to advance territorial claims across the border at the established Line of Actual Control.
“We are glad to hear that both sides appear to have quickly disengaged from the clashes. We are closely monitoring the situation,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at her daily news conference on Tuesday.
She was responding to questions on clashes between Indian and Chinese troops on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on December 9.
“We encourage India and China to utilise existing bilateral channels to discuss disputed boundaries. We are glad to see that there has been some disengagement on the clashes at this time,” she said.
On Tuesday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament in New Delhi that the Indian Army thwarted an attempt by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to “unilaterally” change the status quo at Yangtse area in Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh on December 9.
“The Indian Army bravely prevented the PLA from encroaching on our territory, and forced them to withdraw to their posts. Some soldiers from both sides were injured in the skirmish,” he said in his statement in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
There were no fatalities or serious injuries to Indian troops in the scuffle, he added.
Meanwhile, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price also told reporters that the US is closely monitoring the situation between India and China.
“We are glad to hear that both sides appear to have quickly disengaged from the clashes. I don’t have anything to offer in terms of the timing behind the most recent clashes, but we’re continuing to monitor very closely and to engage with our Indian partners,” Price said.
India, he reiterated, is indeed an important strategic partner of the US bilaterally, in the Quad, and other multilateral fora as well.
“So we’re always, with that in mind, in close contact with our Indian partners, both from our mission in India as well as from the State Department here in Washington,” Price said.
“I would need to refer you to the Indians for their perspective on this as we’re going to keep our diplomatic conversations within those channels, but we do strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to advance territorial claims by incursions, military or civilian, across the border at the established Line of Actual Control, and we encourage India and China to utilise existing bilateral channels to discuss disputed boundaries,” he said.
The Pentagon also said that it continues to closely watch the developments along the LAC at the India-China border.
“We have seen the PRC (People’s Republic of China) continue to amass forces and build military infrastructure along the so-called LAC, but I would refer you to India in terms of their views,” Pentagon Press Secretary Pat Ryder told reporters.
“It does reflect though, and it’s important to point out the growing trend by the PRC to assert itself and to be provocative in areas directed towards US allies and our partners in the Indo Pacific. And we will continue to remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring the security of our partners. And we fully support India’s ongoing efforts to de-escalate this situation,” he said.
The Friday incident is the first major clash between the Indian and Chinese armies since the fierce face-off in the Galwan Valley in June 2020 that marked the most serious military conflict between the two sides in decades.
This is also the first major incident at the border after Chinese President Xi Jinping was re-elected for an unprecedented third five-year term at the once-in-a-five-year Congress of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC).
The Friday clash took place even as both countries held 16 rounds of talks between their commanders to resolve the standoffs at various points since the eastern Ladakh border standoff which erupted in May 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake area.
The last round of talks was held in September during which both sides agreed to disengage their troops at Patrolling Point 15 in the Gogra-Hot Springs area.
India has been consistently maintaining that peace and tranquillity along the LAC are important for the overall development of bilateral ties.