WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said he had spoken to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and claimed the latter is “not in a good mood about what is going on with China,” even as Washington indicated that punitive action against Beijing would be announced on Friday.
Trump’s claim, following up on his offer to mediate or arbitrate on the border spat between India and China, surprised New Delhi, which has rejected the off-the-cuff proposal and said it has its own direct channels of communication with Beijing, while noting the last official conversation between the two leaders was on April 4, centering on the issue of export of hydroxychloroquine.
Trump did not say when he spoke to Modi. While there is a hotline between the PMO and the White House established during the Obama years, any conversation on that channel would be part of the official record, although there is no way of knowing if the two men spoke informally over a personal cell phone.
“They have a big conflict going with India and China. Two countries with 1.4 billion people. Two countries with very powerful militaries. And India is not happy, and probably China is not happy. But 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,” the US President said in his familiar rambling style when asked about the situation between the two countries at a Oval Office event on his executive order relating to social media companies.
He prefaced his remarks, with a little bit of pumping from a fawning Indian journalist about how popular he was in India, with recollection of his trip to the country and how “they like me in India certainly more than the media likes me in this country.”
“And I like Modi. I like your prime minister a lot. He’s a great gentleman. A great gentleman,” he added.
Trump is known to be a phono-hog who breaks protocol all the time for informal conversations with friends, but critics also suggest he is a fantasist who makes up things – such as for instance when he claimed Modi asked him to intercede in India’s problems with Pakistan over Kashmir.
Trump also repeated his offer to mediate between India and China, saying, “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.”
The U.S President’s offer came ahead of a White House press conference he is scheduled to hold later on Friday where he is expected to excoriate China and announce some punitive action. Hours before the event, Trump essayed a cryptic single word tweet in all caps – “CHINA!”