Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday held a telephonic conversation with his US counterpart Mark T Esper during which India’s border row with China in eastern Ladakh and overall security scenario in the region figured prominently, people familiar with the development said.
Singh and Esper also deliberated on ways to further boost bilateral defence and security cooperation, they said, adding the telephonic conversation took place at the request of the US side.
China’s aggressive posturing along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh was discussed and Singh apprised the US defence secretary about India’s position on the row, they said.
The border standoff between India and China had also figured during Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla’s talks with US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale on Tuesday.
It is learnt that the US has been keenly monitoring the fast evolving situation in eastern Ladakh.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Indians have done their best to respond to China’s “incredibly aggressive actions”, asserting that Beijing has a pattern of “instigating” territorial disputes and the world shouldn’t allow this bullying to take place.
“I’ve spoken with Foreign (External Affairs) Minister (S) Jaishankar a number of times about this (Chinese aggressive actions). The Chinese took incredibly aggressive actions. The Indians have done their best to respond to that,” Pompeo told reporters in Washington.
Earlier this week, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the US military will continue to “stand strong in relationship to a conflict between India and China or anywhere else”.
“Our military might stands strong and will continue to stand strong, whether it’s in relationship to a conflict between India and China or anywhere else,” he told Fox News.
Defence and security ties between India and the US have been on an upswing in the last six years. In June 2016, the US had designated India a “Major Defence Partner,” intending to elevate defence trade and technology sharing with New Delhi to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners.
About Singh’s telephonic talks with Esper, sources said the two sides have been in regular touch with each other.
“They have spoken several times on bilateral defence cooperation and issues of mutual interest. Today’s conversation was in continuation of this exchange,” said a source.
The Indian and Chinese armies were locked in a bitter standoff in multiple locations in eastern Ladakh for the last eight weeks. The tension escalated manifold after a violent clash in Galwan Valley in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed.
In the last five days, Chinese military has withdrawn troops from three friction points in line with a disengagement understanding with Indian Army. Both sides have held several rounds of diplomatic and military talks in the last few weeks to ease tension in the region.