File photo: US President Donald Trump shakes hands with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a joint press conference at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on February 25, 2020. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)
US president Donald Trump is aware of the fierce clash between the Indian and Chinese troops in eastern Laddakh, the White House said on Wednesday, stressing that there are no formal plans on mediating between the two countries.
Twenty Indian Army personnel, including a Colonel, were killed in the clash with Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley on Monday night, the biggest military confrontation in over five decades that has significantly escalated the already volatile border standoff between the two countries.
“The president is aware of it. We”re monitoring the situation between Indian and Chinese forces along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters when asked about the border clash.
“We have seen the Indian Army statement that 20 Indian soldiers died as a result of the confrontation today, and we extend our deepest condolences on that,” she said.
McEnany stressed that there are no formal plans to mediate between India and China.
“No formal plans on that beyond what I already said in expressing our absolute condolences to the Indian soldiers that died as a result of today”s confrontation. We extend our deepest condolences there,” she said.
“I would note just that during the phone call on June 2 of this year that President Trump had with Prime Minister Modi, they did discuss the situation on the India-China border,” McEnany said.
The Indian Army initially said on Tuesday that an officer and two soldiers were killed. But in a late evening statement, it revised the figure to 20 saying 17 others who “were critically injured in the line of duty and exposed to sub-zero temperatures at the standoff location succumbed to their injuries.”
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry officials were silent on the casualties suffered by the People”s Liberation Army (PLA) troops, but Hu Xijin, the editor of the ruling Communist Party-run Global Times tabloid, tweeted to say that there are casualties on Chinese side too.
According to a report in the US News, at least 35 Chinese troops including one senior official died in the violent clash with Indian soldiers.
Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday and they agreed to “cool down” tensions on the ground “as soon as possible” and maintain peace and tranquillity in the border area under the agreement reached between the two countries.
A large number of Indian and Chinese troops have been engaged in an eyeball-to-eyeball situation in Galwan Valley and certain other areas of eastern Ladakh for the last five weeks, including in Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie in eastern Ladakh.
Monday”s face-off was the biggest confrontation between the two militaries after their 1967 clashes in Nathu La when India lost around 80 soldiers while over 300 Chinese army personnel were killed in the face-off.
The Indian Army has been fiercely objecting to the transgressions, and demanded their immediate withdrawal for restoration of peace and tranquillity in the area. Both sides held a series of talks in the last few days to resolve the row.
The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC). China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet, while India contests it.