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President Donal Trump on Wednesday said he has offered to arbitrate the India-China border dispute in what is being seen as move that will irk Beijing more than New Delhi, given the steadily rising hostility and antipathy towards China in the United States over the Covid-19 outbreak, which comes on top of months of differences over trade and mounting irritation over theft of intellectual property.
“We have informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing and able to mediate or arbitrate their now raging border dispute,” Trump wrote in a tweet Wednesday morning.
The United States has been closely watching the latest flare-up on the India-China border, and had sided with India in its first official response. The flare-ups were a “reminder that Chinese aggression is not always just rhetorical”.,” Alice Wells, the top US diplomat for South and Central Asia had told reporters last week.
“Whether it’s in the South China Sea or whether it’s along the border with India, we continue to see provocations and disturbing behaviour by China that raises questions about how China seeks to use its growing power,” she had added.
There were no followup pronouncements from the US since, till the morning tweet from the president, with his offer to mediate. No official explanation was forthcoming of the president’s new offer and it was not clear if either India and China had asked the American leader to intervene. A response is awaited from the White House to a request for more information.
But people closely involved with India-US discussions and developments said the president’s tweet conformed to continuing hardening of his antipathy for China, driven by powerful China hawks in the administration,.
“It’s a move to poke the Chinese, surely,” said a person familiar with these matters, “much like a class teacher calling two squabbling students.” China believes it belongs to a more senior class, argument goes, and will not take kindly to being “monitored” with India by a higher authority.
“Think how Indians feel when someone offers to arbitrate their dispute with Pakistan,” it was said.
India will reject the president’s offer as it has rejected all third-party mediation in any of its international disputes as a matter a policy, which has widespread bipartisan endorsement from all political parties. It had earlier rejected President Trump’s offer to mediate the dispute with Pakistan within minutes of it being made, at the urging of Prime Minister Imran Khan.”
President Trump and his Republican allies have been attacking China relentlessly over the Covid-19 outbreak, in a bid to hold it responsible also for its spread in America, which is now the epicenter of the pandemic with the most cases and fatalities.
Trump has called for an independent investigation into the origin of the outbreak — American officials have suggested the virus might have leaked from a virology lab in Wuhan — and China’s handling of it, including the exact magnitude of the devastation their, accusing Beijing of covering it up.
On Tuesday the president told reporters to expect the announcement of an “interesting” action against China, regarding developments in Hong Kong, where protests have broken out against Beijing’s attempt to criminalize disrespect to the national flag. He did not specify.
“We’re doing something now. I think you’ll find it very interesting, but I won’t be talking about it today,” he said responding to a question if he was contemplating sanctions.
In recent weeks, the Trump administration has severely restricted US stay of Chinese journalists deemed working for state-run outfits and announced alerts for its pharmaceutical companies and research institutions working on Covid-19 vaccine and therapeutics about Chinese attempts to steal their work through cyber-hacking.
Close Trump allies on Capital Hill have been calling for restricting Chinese students only to certain course in institutions of higher studies. “It’s a scandal to me that we have trained so many of the Chinese communists,” Senator Tom Cotton said recently. “If Chinese students want to come here and learn Shakespeare and the Federalist Papers—that’s what they need to learn from America; they don’t need to learn quantum computing and artificial intelligence from America.”
About About two-thirds of Americans — 66% — have an unfavourable view of China, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center, conducted in March. “This is the most negative rating for the country since the Center began asking the question in 2005 and is up nearly 20 percentage points since the start of the Trump administration. (January 2017),” research body said.