India’s Foreign Minister: Border Conflict Undermines India’s Trust in China, Confidence in India-U.S. Relations

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said Tuesday (Jan. 12) that trust between India and China has been severely damaged following last summer’s clashes along the India-China border. It was the first clash between the two countries in 45 years that resulted in human casualties.

On the other hand, Su Jaisheng said in a video interview with Reuters (REUTERS NEXT) that India’s relations with the United States are converging and could develop further under the new administration in Washington.

India and China erupted in bloody clashes along the sovereignty-disputed Ladakh border in June last year, killing 20 Indian soldiers, while China has not announced the number of casualties. The India-China border conflict has escalated since then, with both sides increasing their military deployments near the disputed border.

Following last year’s clashes, the Indian and Chinese militaries have so far held eight rounds of military chief-level talks to ease the tense standoff. However, consultations on disengagement between the two militaries still have not reached a consensus, and consultations are underway for a ninth round of talks.

After 45 years, bloodshed on the India-China border has had a huge impact on public opinion and politics, Su Jaisheng said. He said India’s trust and confidence in China has really had an impact when it comes to India-China relations. This is deeply troubling.

India and China fought a border war in 1962, and since then the two countries have largely contained tensions along the Line Of Actual Control (LAC) while expanding trade and commerce until last summer.

On the other hand, Sujesen said India’s relationship with the United States is warming up. In an interview with Reuters, he was confident about the direction of India-U.S. bilateral relations in the incoming Biden administration.

He said that while we face many challenges, “the U.S. will be more open to finding partners, and I am confident about the direction of our relationship.”

According to Sujesen, “Structurally, India’s relationship with the United States is very strong, with very distinctive elements, with political convergence and increasing convergence on security and defense.”

A report on Tuesday by the official ABC News channel appeared to confirm Sugarson’s confidence in the India-U.S. relationship. According to a newly declassified U.S. national security document, two years before the India-China Line of Actual Control (LAC) military standoff, the U.S. had developed an Indo-Pacific strategy that envisaged providing diplomatic and military support to India to address challenges such as the border dispute with China.

In early 2018, President Donald Trump endorsed a full-year 2017 strategy developed by the National Security Council (NSC). A national security briefing prepared by the White House was declassified last week and will be released on Wednesday. The briefing is classified as “classified” and “not available to foreigners. The document was obtained by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Tuesday.

Citing the document, the Australian news channel said the U.S. plans to “provide support to India through diplomatic, military and intelligence channels to help address landlocked challenges such as the India-China border dispute.

The U.S. aims to “accelerate India’s rise and ability to strengthen its self-defense capabilities” by “laying a stronger foundation for defense cooperation and interoperability; and expanding our defense trade and ability to transfer defense technology.

The document also mentions the need to “align our (U.S.) Indo-Pacific strategy with that of Australia, India, and Japan,” the need to deepen U.S. cooperation with Japan and Australia, and the need to build a quadrilateral security relationship with India.

The document was previously categorized as “classified” and “withheld from foreign citizens. Significantly, the report was officially declassified last week – 30 years earlier than normal.

This is a significant document,” said Rory Medcalf, dean of the National Security College at the Australian National University. It’s extraordinary that it was released decades in advance.”

He sees it as a signal of the kind of continuity the U.S. government, or administration officials, “would like to see in U.S. relations with the Indo-Pacific region, including in managing Chinese power.”

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Tuesday that the highly unusual release of the document in the final days of the Trump presidency shows that those involved in implementing U.S. policy want to make sure that this strategic architecture is clear and on the public record.