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As Border Stalemate Continues, Indian Defence Secy. Hopes for US Help If Needed Against a ‘Bully’ China

Defence secretary Giridhar Aramane's remarks are perhaps the most explicit articulation by a senior Indian government official that India’s defence cooperation with the United States is geared towards fending off China.
Photo: Defence ministry website.

New Delhi: Even as the stalemate at the border stand-off continues after the latest round of India-China military talks, India’s defence secretary Giridhar Aramane said on Wednesday (February 21) that India has stood strongly against a “bully” China at the border and hoped that the United States will “be there in case we need their support”.

Since April and May of 2020, Indian and Chinese troops have been locked in a standoff at various points in eastern Ladakh. 

In June 2020, this led to a deadly clash in the Galwan Valley that claimed the lives of at least 24 soldiers.

Over the past four years, numerous rounds of talks have led to de-escalation at several friction points. However, unresolved issues persist at Demchok and Depsang.

The 21st round of India-China corps commander-level meetings took place on Monday, but no significant progress towards a resolution was evident.

Meanwhile, Aramane highlighted on Wednesday the crucial support provided by the United States, including equipment suitable for high-altitude conflict, which proved invaluable to the Indian army during the tense early months of the standoff.

“We will continue to discuss the challenges we face with our northern neighbour. The possibility that we may encounter a similar situation. What we faced in 2020 is keeping us active all the time,” he said at an event organised to encourage collaboration between the Indian and US defence industries.

Aramane continued: “The one thing which helped us very quickly in the entire episode was the intelligence, the situation awareness, which the US equipment and US government could help us with.”

He asserted that it was essential that India felt assured of the United States’ support against a shared “threat”. 

“A strong resolve that we support each other in the face of a common threat is going to be of critical importance to us,” he said.

This is perhaps the most explicit articulation by a senior Indian government official that India’s defence cooperation with the United States is geared towards fending off China.

“India is giving a faceoff to our neighbour in almost all the fronts that we have with them. Wherever there is a mountain pass, we are stationed there to face the eventuality and wherever there is a road, we have to be ready there,” he said.

The defence secretary asserted that as India confronts China, New Delhi expects Washington to stand alongside them. “…we are standing against a bully in a very determined fashion and we expect that our friend [the] US will be there with us in case we need their support”.

He further expressed gratitude for the “support and the resolve from our friends in supporting us during such an event”.

It had been reported earlier that India, under the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement signed with the US, had urgently acquired the Extended Cold Weather Clothing System, as New Delhi deployed thousands of troops to the Himalayan heights following the onset of the latest standoff with India.

Additionally, India deployed US-made Chinook helicopters, ultra-light towed howitzers and rifles for troops in eastern Ladakh, as per reports.

Aramane’s remarks were the first public acknowledgement from India that the US had supported India materially during the stand-off with China.

The Indian readout of the military talks on Monday stated that the “discussions built on the previous rounds, seeking complete disengagement in the remaining areas along the LAC [Line of Actual Control] in eastern Ladakh as an essential basis for [the] restoration of peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas”.

In contrast, the Chinese press note made no reference to any “remaining areas” needing resolution, as Beijing maintains that Demchok and Depsang are not involved in the ongoing standoff.

As per a machine translation, the Chinese defence ministry said that both countries aimed to “reach a solution acceptable to both parties at the earliest opportunity, thus turning the page on the border situation”.

Both press notes did say that they agreed to continue to maintain peace and tranquility at the border areas.

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