The US House of Representatives has unanimously passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), slamming China’s aggression against India in the Galwan Valley and its growing territorial assertiveness in and around disputed areas like the South China Sea.
The NDAA amendment, moved by Congressman Steve Chabot along with Indian-American lawmaker Ami Bera and passed on Monday (July 20), said that India and China should work towards de-escalating the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The troops of India and China are locked in a standoff in several areas along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh since May 5. The situation deteriorated last month following the Galwan Valley clashes that left 20 Indian Army personnel dead.
Passed unanimously by the House of Representatives along with scores of other amendments, it said that the expansion and aggression of the People’s Republic of China in and around disputed territories, such as the Line of Actual Control, the South China Sea, the Senkaku Islands, is of significant concern.
The bipartisan amendment states Congress’ opposition to Chinese aggression against India in the Galwan Valley on the India-China border, and expresses its concern toward the growing territorial assertiveness of China. China has used the distraction of the coronavirus to attempt to seize territory belonging to India, as well as to press its territorial claims in the South China Sea, it said.
China claims almost all of the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea as its sovereign territory. China has been building military bases on artificial islands in the region also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
China has impeded commercial activity like fishing or mineral exploration by countries like Vietnam and the Philippines. Ties between China and Japan have been strained by a territorial row over a group of islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in China.
“India is a critical, democratic partner in the Indo-Pacific,” Chabot said in a statement after the House passed the NDAA amendment. “I am a strong supporter of our bilateral relationship, and I stand with India, and all our partners in the region, as they confront China’s hostile acts of aggression,” he said.
“I am proud to be joined by Congressman Ami Bera, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation, to bring this important amendment to the floor in a bipartisan manner,” he added.
The Chabot amendment said that in the months leading up to June, 15, along the Line of Actual Control, China reportedly amassed 5,000 soldiers; and is believed to have crossed into previously disputed territory considered to be settled as part of India under the 1962 truce.
China and India have reached an agreement to de-escalate and disengage along the Line of Actual Control, the Chabot amendment said, adding that on June 15, at least 20 Indian soldiers and an unconfirmed number of Chinese soldiers were killed in skirmishes following a weeks-long standoff in Eastern Ladakh, which is the defacto border between the two countries.
Following the deadly violence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India stated, “whenever there have been differences of opinion, we have always tried to ensure that those differences never turned into a dispute,” the amendment said.
Another bipartisan amendment moved by Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi along with eight others urging Beijing to de-escalate the situation at the border through existing diplomatic mechanisms and not by force is slated to come up for a vote before the House on Tuesday.
The two resolutions comes days after the House of Representatives Caucus on India and Indian-Americans in a letter to India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, said that over the last few months, the Chinese authorities have been acting with impunity and have attempted to transgress on the LAC, which resulted in diplomatic discussions to implement a process for de-escalation along the LAC on July 6.
It was led by Congressmen Holding and Brad Sherman and signed by seven other lawmakers. “It is my hope that they scale back on their excessive weaponry and infrastructure at the Line of Actual Control and uphold both their longstanding and newly founded agreements with India,” said the lawmakers who offered their condolences to the families of the fallen soldiers.