As Trump’s offer to mediate the India-China border conflict has publically failed, experts argue that “Washington’s policy-makers, who seek to pit the Indians against the Chinese, maybe as naïve as Trump”.
The fierce military standoff between China and India that has been in the headlines for over a month now started in early May when clashes erupted between the troops of both the nuclear nations, that left scores of soldiers injured from both the sides driving a steady build-up of troops in the border region.
The US President, Donald Trump had recently offered to “mediate and arbitrate” the conflict, however, the offered was duly refused by both the involved countries.
Artyom Lukin, an associate professor of international relations at Far Eastern Federal University in Russia opines that Trump’s mediation offer “was perhaps inspired by his recent success in bringing about an OPEC+ deal that ended a brutal oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.”
In April this year, with Trump’s apparent mediation, the oil giants Saudi Arabia led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russia led by President Vladimir Putin with 21 other countries as a part of the OPEC+ agreement collectively agreed to reduce oil output by 9.7 million barrels per day between May and June, in an attempt to combat the drop in international demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Pentagon on Trump’s offer
It is reported that Pentagon and experts in Washington do not share the same perspective as Trump’s on the issue of mediation. Lukin believes that “they understand that a rising and ambitious India is the only realistic counter-balance against China.
There are just no other candidates for this role. Russia is in cahoots with China. Japan is a declining and militarily weak power.”
It is widely understood that to maintain control over the whole Eurasian region, “the US needs to keep this super-continent divided against itself, which means never allowing a true rapprochement between Asia’s two biggest powers, India and China.”
Trump’s failure to mediate the Sino-Indian conflict
Lukin puts forward two primary reasons for Trump’s failure to intervene in the Sino-Indian conflict. “Firstly, it is difficult to be an effective mediator or arbiter in international politics if you don’t have leverage over the parties in question.”
He believes that in the case of India and China, “it is not clear what rewards or penalties the US has in reserve for China and India. Most likely there are none.”
Secondly, the scholar in international relations claims that “the best mediator is one that is perceived as unbiased and impartial. On this count, the White House has an obvious handicap, since the US views India as a crucial associate and friend, while China is considered a competitor and rival.”
The Blame on China
US’s rivalry with China has been taken into account by many international critics. Apart from the trade war and technology rivalry, Washington blamed Beijing for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and has also pointed at China for playing aggressively in the disputed Himalayan region.
It is reported that Alice Wells, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, called China’s behaviour “aggression, the constant attempt to shift the norms, to shift what is the status quo, that has to be resisted whether it’s in the South China Sea… or whether it’s in India’s own backyard, both on land as well as in the Indian Ocean.”
On the flip side, Indian defence experts like Lt Gen H S Panag believes that China’s is ultimately protecting its own “status quo,” that is continuously been threatened by India’s strategic growth in the contested territories along the border.
Since New Delhi seeks to maximize its benefits from the partnerships that it shares with the US, it strategically refrains from being involved in American-led efforts to contain China. “In this sense, Washington’s policy-makers, who seek to pit the Indians against the Chinese, maybe as naive as Trump with his peace-making initiatives” concludes Lukin.