“India is likely to face China’s aggressive activities in the border area for a long time, and close coordination between us (the United States and India) has been very important.” The outgoing U.S. Ambassador to India, Kenneth Juster, made this statement publicly on the 5th local time. The Hindu newspaper interpreted it as the first time a U.S. official publicly acknowledged the existence of U.S.-India cooperation around the India-China border standoff. The report mentioned that although the cooperation was “officially announced” for the first time, the U.S. has actually provided India with geospatial data, satellite maps and cold-resistant supplies in the past few months.
The Hindu reported that Juster made the statement in a speech titled “Ambitions and Achievements in the U.S.-India Partnership. According to the report, Juster confirmed that the Trump Administration has cooperated with India to counter the pattern of China’s “intrusion” operations along the Line of Actual Control. He added: “The U.S. and India share a vision rooted in the Indo-Pacific region to bring opportunities for growth and prosperity to all nations there and, what is more, at the same time discourage any form of invasion, intimidation or predatory investment”.
However, the Huanqiu Shibao reporter checked the information on the 6th and found that in the full text of Juster’s speech released on the website of the U.S. Embassy in India, there are only two clear references to “China”, one is to deal with the challenge of “China’s rise” to the Indo-Pacific region, and the other is that the business environment for the US companies in China is “increasingly difficult” and did not directly take a position on the India-China border standoff. A source told the Huanqiu Shibao on the 6th that some of Juster’s remarks came during a “question and answer session” at the end of his formal speech. It is unclear whether the local media have deliberately “changed flowers and trees” (“put the blame” on the situation), or whether the U.S. Embassy in India made a “technical cut” in the final publication of the article. The Hindu said this is the first time U.S. officials have confirmed cooperation with India in the India-China border standoff, while Indian officials have previously insisted that they are working with China to resolve tensions through a “bilateral, diplomatic approach”.
The standoff between India and China has been going on for months, and every move by both sides has sparked speculation from time to time. According to India’s New Delhi TV on June 6, the Indian Ministry of Defense in its annual report falsely claimed in its annual report that the Chinese military used force to change the status quo in many areas along the China-India Line of Control through “unilateral actions and provocations”. And that the Indian Army responded with a “firm response” by adopting a “no escalation” approach. The report claims that the Indian army has made all preparations for any potential extreme situations, but still maintains that it is for an “amicable solution” through dialogue. The report also mentions that in response to the Chinese and Pakistani threats, the Indian Air Force will procure 56 C295 transport aircraft, worth a total of about $2.5 billion, as well as 83 domestically produced “Glory 1A” fighters under the “Make in India” policy. India’s “Eurasia Times” website reported on May 5 that satellite photos from social media show that the Indian army has deployed heavy weapons at several strategic locations along the India-China border, such as Pangong Lake, Rizang La and Rechin La Pass.
According to the Hindustan Times, India and China have held eight rounds of military commander-level talks so far, but have made little progress. A senior Indian government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “The timing of the ninth round of talks is yet to be determined, but we are in no hurry (to push) as the Chinese side has not yet made the necessary clarifications on disengagement and de-escalation of the situation” and “we are fully prepared for a long haul to realise the goal of ensuring that heavy equipment deployed by both armies is withdrawn from the front line of confrontation”. Another Indian government security official said that “India and China need to rediscover the balance as two rising powers, otherwise there will be friction”. An Indian government official familiar with the development told the Huanqiu Shibao that “both sides are still sticking to their respective positions, so a new round of military level talks is unlikely to be held in the near future”. “The good news is that both sides are willing to keep communication open through diplomatic and military channels, which determines that the standoff will not escalate into a confrontation.”
The Huanqiu Shibao noted that while Juster’s speech focused on the major progress made in the U.S.-India bilateral relationship over the past four years and on the outlook for cooperation, there were also many “overtones”. He said that India should not only choose bidders offering low prices, but also focus on the quality and value of products and ensure strategic interoperability between military units and friendly forces. Juster also “suggested” that India should “consider which country will give it the best chance of realizing its ambitions for indigenization of the defense industry”. According to RIA Novosti, Juster wants India to “choose between the United States and Russia”.
At present, India’s S-400 air defense missile system purchased from Russia is about to be delivered. Because Turkey’s insistence on dealing with Russia before has caused strong dissatisfaction with the United States, some analysts believe that Juster’s remarks are not so much a “suggestion” as a threat. The Hindustan Times reported that the U.S. Congressional Research Service said in a report submitted to Congress on the 4th that the India-Russia S-400-related deal could lead to U.S. sanctions against India. Since 2018, the Indian government has been trying to get a U.S. sanctions waiver on the arms purchase, but the Trump administration has repeatedly threatened sanctions and proposed to the Indian side to use U.S.-supplied air defense missile systems. However, India remains determined to move forward with the Russian arms deal, stressing that the move is “in the national interest”.
According to South China Morning Post, Hong Kong, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last December that “the West is trying to undermine our close partnership and priority relationship with India. This is the purpose of strong U.S. pressure on New Delhi”. He added that the U.S. is behind India’s “anti-China game” and that India has become “a favourite target for the West’s persistent, aggressive and insidious policies.