17:52 GMT20 January 2021
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    While India has publicly rejected any scope for external interference in its ongoing border dispute with China, it has been ramping up cooperation with the US and its Asian allies at the same time. In May, India denied a claim by US President Donald Trump, who said Prime Minister Narendra Modi wasn’t in a good mood due to the border situation.

    The deadly clashes between troops from the Indian Army and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in the disputed Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh this year had been "planned" by the Chinese government, a new report by a US panel has alleged.    

    The recently released annual report of the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) has also stated that Beijing had considered the “possibility for fatalities” in the hand-to-hand combat. A clash between Indian and Chinese troops in the remote Galwan Valley region on the intervening night of 15 and 16 June left 20 Indian soldiers dead.

    China has so far refused to divulge if it suffered casualties in the border flare-up, the deadliest between the two Asian neighbours since the 1962 border war.

    The US panel report also draws on remarks by Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe in the lead-up to the clashes to allege that the incident could have been in the making for some time.

    “For instance, several weeks prior to the clash Defense Minister Wei made his statement encouraging Beijing to 'use fighting to promote stability'”, states the USCC report.

    “Just over two weeks before the incident, in another potential indication of Chinese leaders signaling their intent to escalate tensions, an editorial in China’s state-owned tabloid Global Times warned that India would suffer a 'devastating blow' to its trade and economic ties with China if it got involved in the US-China rivalry”, the report documents.

    Dwelling on the possible motives behind China’s actions along the Indian border, the USCC reckons “if China’s goal from its actions was to acquire territory... [the Chinese government] might deem the moves a success”.

    “If Beijing intended to dissuade India from building infrastructure on its side of the LAC or warn it against aligning with the United States, however, then the Chinese moves have been ineffective, if not counterproductive”, it notes.

    The USCC was formed in 2000 to “monitor, investigate, and report to Congress on the US and China”, the government panel’s website says.

    The report's findings also point towards China’s growing “military presence” in the South Asia region, highlighting the PLA’s engagements with Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

    “The PLA has also made itself highly visible in South Asia in recent years through activities and projects that build influence over local civilian and military leaders”, it states.

    “Although between 2002 and 2020 senior PLA officials met most frequently with their Pakistani counterparts—a sign of that bilateral relationship’s key importance—they also regularly interacted with defense officials from India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka”, says the US panel report.

    The USCC has also noted that the PLA was ramping up contacts with forces from other South Asian countries by providing “military education” to officers from the region.

    The new report comes amid a months-long military standoff between the PLA and the Indian Army in the eastern Ladakh region along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) border. Several rounds of military commander-level talks between the two countries as well as diplomatic and political engagements have failed to find a solution to the border impasse.


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