Govt officials deny Trump’s claim of talk with Modi on LAC situation

Govt officials deny Trump’s claim of talk with Modi on LAC situation

They say they were taken by surprise by the U.S. President’s remarks

The government on Friday forcefully rejected U.S. President Donald Trump’s claim that he had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the situation on the Line of Actual Control with China, or that the two leaders spoke at all.

“There has been no recent contact between PM Modi and President Trump. The last conversation between them was on 4 April 2020 on the subject of Hydroxychloroquine,” said government sources, who did not wish to be identified.

Government officials told The Hindu they were taken by surprise by the U.S. President’s comments, particularly his reference to PM Modi’s “mood” when Mr. Trump claimed to have spoken to him.

“I can tell you, I did speak to Prime Minister Modi. He’s not – he’s not in a good mood about what’s going on with China,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday (Friday morning India time).

The sources also dismissed Mr. Trump’s repeated offer of mediation, saying that India and China were in touch directly. Earlier on Thursday, Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he was willing to “mediate or arbitrate” over what he called the “raging border dispute” between India and China.

In response to questions about Mr. Trump’s tweet, MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava had said that India and China were “engaged with the Chinese side to peacefully resolve the issue”, referring to the month-long standoff between the two armies along the LAC at points in Ladakh and Sikkim.

“MEA had also made it clear that we are directly in touch with the Chinese through established mechanisms and diplomatic contacts,” the government sources added on Friday.

When asked by reporters, Mr. Trump said that he would indeed be willing to broker talks between India and China if “it would help”.

“I would do that. You know, I would do that. If they – if they thought it would help if I were the mediator or the arbiter, I would do that. So, we’ll see,” Mr. Trump told a correspondent who asked him about his tweet.

In a series of responses to the correspondent of the PTI news agency, Mr. Trump said that he had returned from India just prior to the Coronavirus outbreak and that he “just beat COVID”. When asked about his “rockstar popularity” in India, Mr. Trump added, “I got back – I know. And they like me in India. I think they like me in India certainly more than the media likes me in this country.”

This is not the first time Mr. Trump has spoken publicly about a conversation between him and Mr. Modi, including the most recent conversation on India’s ban on HCQ exports, a ban which was reversed after the two leaders spoke.

While government officials have in the past questioned Mr. Trump’s version of the conversations, this is the first time that they have said that there was no conversation at all, as Mr. Trump claimed, creating a diplomatic precedent of sorts.

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