Two former top US officials differ on Trump’s likely response if Sino-India border dispute escalates

Representational image. (Courtesy: The Week)

(, Jul21’20) – The Trump administration had put together an integrated “war plan” to first confront and then “take down” the Chinese Communist Party, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was cited as saying Jul 20, adding that this included supporting allies in India on the borders of Chinese-occupied Tibet. However, Former United States National Security Advisor John Bolton had earlier said Jul 11 that there was no guarantee that Trump would back India if the situation between Beijing and Delhi had to escalate.

“You’re seeing an integrated war plan put together to confront first and then take down the Chinese Communist Party, to call their bluff,” Bannon has said in an interview to Fox News.

Steve Bannon (L) and John Bolton (R).

This “war plan” against China includes supporting allies in India on the borders of “Chinese-occupied Tibet,” he has said.

The president’s “kind of war council” was stated to have laid out the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” — National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, head of the FBI Christopher Wray, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and then Attorney General William Barr — against the Chinese Communist Party.

“Those four individuals laid out an integrated and coherent war plan to confront the Chinese Communist Party on technological and information war and economic war, and then, with our allies, start to open up the South China Sea, and support our allies in India on the border of Chinese-occupied Tibet,” he has said.

However, with regard to the ongoing India-China border faceoff, Bolton was not so sure.

“I don’t know which way he would go and I don’t think he knows either. I think he sees the geostrategic relationship with China for example – exclusively through the prism of trade,” Bolton had told the Indian television news channel Wion in an interview.

“I’m not sure how much he understands the significance of the border clash. I don’t think he knows anything about the history of these clashes over the decades between India and China. He may have been briefed on it, but history doesn’t really stick with him. I think his gut instinct for the next four months is to take anything off the table that complicates what is already a difficult election campaign for him. So what he would want is quiet along with the border whether it benefits China or India. From his point of view – No news is good news.”

Bolton felt that once the guard rail is removed after the November elections Trump will be back to his old ways. “He won’t be criticizing Beijing for putting Uyghurs in concentration camps or repressing Hong Kong. He’ll be back to the big China trade deal. So, if things were to develop between India and China in a more critical fashion, I’m not sure where he would come down.”

Bolton has accused China of behaving in a belligerent fashion all around its periphery, certainly in the East and South China Sea. “Its relations with Japan has declined, with India, you are well aware of the facts there, and with others. I think this is China’s effort to assert itself through not just political and military means through the belt and road initiative and others to gain increased sway over countries that become economically dependent on it”, he has said in his Wion interview.

Bolton became the National Security Advisor on Apr 9, 2018 but fell out with President Trump and was ousted after Sep10, 2019. He wrote a best-selling book about his tenure in The Trump administration, The Room Where It Happened, published in June 2020. The Trump Administration tried but failed to stop the publication by court order.

Bannon, who played a key role in the electoral victory of President Donald Trump, left his position as a chief strategist in 2017. It was not clear whether he was fired or resigned but he has continued to remain supportive of Trump, like several of other ousted top officials.


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