No doubt a huge surprise for both Beijing and New Delhi, locked in an escalating border dispute which in the past days has witnessed a troop build-up in multiple disputed border regions, given the historic difficulty of competing claims along the world’s longest unmarked border, President Trump on Wednesday morning offered to "mediate or arbitrate" between the two Asian powers.
He tweeted he is "ready, willing and able" to ease the tensions which are fast being militarized in a situation that FP recently noted could explode into major conflict between two nuclear armed powers.
"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 said in the early morning tweet.
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. Thank you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2020
The surprise offer, more than likely to be rejected considering Washington's own boiling tensions with Beijing over a host of issues - the latest including Hong Kong - comes on the heels of a top American diplomat for South Asia making provocative remarks siding with India on the contested border issue.
Outgoing State Department official Alice Wells made the provocative statements a week ago at an Atlantic Council event, saying, “There’s a method here to Chinese operations and it is that constant aggression, the constant attempt to shift the norms, to shift what is the status quo.”
Wells added: “That has to be resisted whether it’s in the South China Sea… or whether it’s in India’s own backyard.”
Trump's offer also comes after a new White House report laying out a broad strategy on China, accused Beijing of "provocative and coercive military and paramilitary activities" in the region, including Sino-Indian border areas.
Sporadic but fierce clashes have occurred going back to the 1960's along the shared 2,100 mile border, which often involves literal fist-fights among opposing troops and border patrol guards.
"Thousands of Chinese People's Liberation (PLA) troops are reported to have moved into sensitive areas along the eastern Ladokh border, setting up tents and stationing vehicles and heavy machinery in what India considers to be its territory," The Guardian reports Wednesday.
Over the past weekend Indian media began reporting that thousands of PLA troops have now moved into Ladakh’s disputed Galwan river area.
Some Indian media reports have suggested multiple thousands, while a new Business Standard India report goes so far as to claim up to 10,000 Chinese soldiers are now inside India occupying the Galwan Valley while digging into fortified positions.
Regardless, the intensifying border dispute is serious enough to have caught Trump's attention, meaning a broader conflict or even war could be on the horizon.