‘Reminder of threat posed by Beijing’: US backs India amid border tensions with China


NEW DELHI, MAY 20: The US on Wednesday strongly backed India amid its simmering border tensions with China, with the Trump administration’s pointperson for South Asia saying such disputes are a “reminder of the threat posed by China”
Alice Wells, the outgoing head of the state department’s South and Central Asia bureau, said there like-minded nations such as the US, India, Australia and Asean states have rallied together in the face of China’s “provocations and disturbing behaviour”.The remarks, made in the course of an online briefing for journalists, came against the backdrop of simmering tensions in Ladakh and Sikkim sectors of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), where India and China have deployed additional troops. China on Tuesday also accused Indian forces of crossing into Chinese territory.
The top US diplomat also addressed India’s role as a critical player in Afghanistan, saying it was for New Delhi to decide whether it wants to directly engage with the Taliban. However, she suggested that with the Taliban set to join the emerging governing structure in Kabul, it would be necessary for India and any future Afghan government to have a “healthy relationship”.Answering a question on the recent India-China tensions, Wells replied: “The flare-ups on the border, I think, are a reminder that Chinese aggression is not always just rhetorical. And so 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 added, “What we want to see is an international system that provides benefit to everyone and not a system in which there is suzerainty to China. And so I think in this instance, the border disputes are a reminder of the threat posed by China.”China’s actions have led to a “rallying of like-minded nations, whether it’s through Asean or through other diplomatic groupings – the trilateral that the US has with Japan and India or the quadrilateral with Australia – and conversations that are taking place globally”, Wells said. India is and will remain a “critical player” in Afghanistan and this was reflected in US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s decision to travel to New Delhi amid the Covid-19 lockdown for consultations with the Indian leadership last week, Wells said.Khalilzad had said in an interview that India should engage with the Taliban. Asked about the issue, Wells replied: “We defer to India as to whether it wants to engage directly with the Taliban.
“But in a situation where we are seeking through a negotiated political settlement to have the Taliban as part of that political governing structure, that government’s relationship with India should be close, and we believe that a healthy Afghanistan is going to need to have a healthy relationship with India.”Wells was less forthcoming on a question about the US-Taliban agreement signed in February having no guarantees about Afghan soil being used by anti-India terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed that are known to have links with the Taliban.The Taliban, she said, have made commitments against international terrorism, and the US is committed to ensuring that Afghan soil is never used as a base for “terrorism directed against us, the region and our friends and partners”.

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