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The U.S. Shouldn’t Get Involved in the Ladakh Standoff

This is between India and China. We really need to mind our own business.

President Donald J. Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Tensions between India and China have been increasing over the last few weeks with a buildup of troops along a disputed border in eastern Ladakh. The buildup on the Chinese side appears to have been a response to Indian construction activity that is meant to make the remote area more easily accessible if there is a need to send reinforcements there. China is trying to discourage India from completing those construction projects, but there doesn’t appear to be anything more to the standoff than that at the moment. The standoff has gone mostly ignored here in the U.S., but it has prompted some knee-jerk calls to “stand with India,” as if this dispute had anything to do with us. We can get a hint from this of how U.S.-China rivalry will be used in the future to justify meddling in all sorts of disputes where there are no U.S. interests at stake.

The standoff between China and India is a bilateral problem for those governments to solve, and there is not much that the U.S. can constructively do in this case. India is not seeking any “help” from Washington, and it’s not as if the U.S. is in a position to appeal to the Chinese government. U.S.-Chinese relations are the worst they have been in decades, and trying to insert the U.S. into a dispute that doesn’t concern us doesn’t help anyone. The president’s random offer to mediate has been predictably rebuffed by both governments:

Both India and China have rejected US President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate on the border standoff.

In an embarrassment to the US President, sources here denied his claims of having spoken to Prime Minister Narenda Modi on India’s ongoing military standoff with China in eastern Ladakh. In fact, they underlined that no conversation had taken place between the two leaders since April 4 when they spoke on the hydroxychloroquine export.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) for days has been stressing on bilateralism to resolve the dispute even as the US, first by senior diplomat Alice Wells and later Trump, have sought to triangulate it.

This is a good example of how the U.S. insists on trying to butt in to other countries’ disputes when it isn’t wanted and where it has nothing to contribute. It isn’t the first time that the president has unwisely and unnecessarily offered to mediate disputes that India doesn’t want third parties to mediate. His repeated suggestions that he could mediate the Kashmir dispute were most unwelcome in New Delhi, and his latest attempted intervention clearly isn’t appreciated, either.

India and China managed to resolve their previous Doklam standoff three years ago without any assistance from the U.S., and it seems likely that they will be able to deescalate this situation as well:

Some Indian analysts have suggested that the current situation will end similarly, pointing to a number of conciliatory messages from Chinese officials. “We should never let differences overshadow our relations. We should resolve differences through communication,” China’s ambassador to India, Sun Weidong, said Wednesday.

Some disputes truly have nothing to do with the U.S. Our government should learn to recognize that and mind its own business.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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