India Says Trust With China ‘Profoundly Disturbed,’ U.S. Ties on Upswing

(Reuters) -
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar seen ahead of their meeting at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, Oct. 26, 2020. (Adnan Abidi/Pool via AP)

India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said on Tuesday that trust with China had been deeply impaired after last summer’s border clash which resulted in the first combat deaths in 45 years.

Ties with the United States, on the other hand, were converging and were likely to expand under the new administration in Washington, India’s top diplomat told the Reuters Next conference.

Tensions with China erupted in June, when 20 Indian soldiers were killed in brutal hand-to-hand fighting, while China suffered an unspecified number of casualties in the clash on a disputed section of the border in the western Himalayas.

Both sides have deployed heavily in the contested area, and the escalation poses the most serious military crisis between the nuclear-armed neighbors for decades.

The two countries fought a border war in 1962, but until last summer they had largely kept a lid on tensions along the Line of Actual Control, the de facto border, while expanding commercial ties.

“Now last year, for reasons which are not clear to us, the Chinese really brought an enormous military force to one part of the border. And then at the Line of Actual Control, obviously we moved up when we saw them coming and that has sort of created, friction points along the Line of Actual Control,” Jaishankar said.

Several rounds of military and diplomatic negotiations have taken place but there has been no pullback of forces from the frontline. India expects the talks to lead to an amicable solution, the Indian army chief Manoj Mukund Narvane said on Tuesday.

Jaishankar said relations with the United States were on the upswing and he was confident about its direction under the incoming Biden administration.

“When I look at many of the challenges we face, the U.S. is going to be much more open looking for partners and I’m confident about where we are going with the relationship.”

India has built close defense ties with Washington, buying more than $20 billion of weapons over the last 15 years, as it diversifies away from traditional supplier Russia.

Jaishankar said India would respond positively to any offer or invitation from the Biden administration to restart some kind of free-trade talks.