The US has affirmed that it stands with India against China's objections to India-US joint military exercises in the border state of Uttarakhand. "I would point you to the comments by my Indian colleagues, that it's none of their (China's) business," said Elizabeth Jones, the US Charge d' Affaires in India, in a roundtable with journalists on Friday.
After China said the exercises in Auli — it happens to be around 100 km from the border — violates the spirit of two border agreements, the Indian foreign ministry responded sharply on Thursday: "India exercises with whomsoever it chooses to and we do not give veto to third countries on this issue."
Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the joint exercises have "nothing to do with the 1993 and 1996 agreements" with China. "Since these were raised by the Chinese side, let me emphasise that the Chinese side needs to reflect and think about its own breach of these agreements of 1993 and 1996," Mr Bagchi said, responding to questions on the issue. The 1993 agreement with Beijing deals with maintaining peace along the Line of Actual Control and adjacent areas.
India is currently holding its 18th joint military exercise with the US -- "Yudh Abhyas" -- in Uttarakhand, around 100 km from the Line of Actual Control.
The US interim envoy, besides speaking on foreign policy vis-a-vis China, was also asked about trade and a possible priority deal for India.
She said that since trade has doubled in the last seven years to $157 billion, "I don't think anyone believes we need a trade deal. There is no discussion on that at this point."
The topmost American diplomat in India, Ms Jones also spoke about communal rhetoric during poll campaigns in India.
She said the US government "will continue to raise it" when asked about the campaign verging on communal hate. "This is a conversation we have perpetually with our Indian colleagues. That's one of the benefits of this consequential relationship, that we can discuss a great variety of issues — easy issues, difficult issues; issues on which we agree, issues on which we don't," she said.
The campaign in Gujarat, PM Narendra Modi's home state, has taken a turn towards communally charged statements by his party BJP. Union Home Minister Amit Shah's statement about the 2002 riots allegedly gaslighting Muslims has stood out: "There was no room for development in Gujarat because of chaos. In 2002, they tried to indulge in communal violence... we taught them such a lesson, we put them in jail."