Both the US State and Defence departments have added footnotes to the transcripts they released on Rajnath Singh’s remarks at 2+2. The State Department has also updated the text

New Delhi: An apparent translation mix-up seems to be the reason behind the flip-flop by the US, which has changed the transcript of remarks made by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at the 2+2 dialogue describing Chinese aggression in eastern Ladakh.

On 27 October, the US had issued a statement quoting Singh as referring to “reckless aggression on India’s northern borders” — seen as a reference to China. However, the US State Department has since updated the statement, with the fresh version quoting Singh as simply referring to “challenges” India is facing. The latter is the accurate translation of what Singh said.

During the 2+2 dialogue, Singh had said in Hindi, “Aaj ke samay mein jo challenges hum face kar rahe hain, unki wajah se hamari partnership aur bhi mahatwapurn ho jaati hain.” 

Upon realising the error, India sought to distance itself from the misinterpretation. On Thursday, when asked about the remarks during the weekly media briefing, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, “The video of these remarks is out on the public domain.”

Srivastava was referring to TV news videos of the opening remarks made by Singh. Meanwhile, the government also took up the matter with the State Department. 

“The original US transcript of the 2+2 opening statement was prepared from an audio recording of the Indian government interpreter’s English-language delivery to US participants,” a US Embassy spokesperson in New Delhi said.

Sources in the Defence Ministry said that Singh never said “reckless aggression on our northern borders”, and that they had asked the Ministry of External Affairs to take it up with the State Department.

In the wake of this, the US State Department updated the remarks in the transcript with a footnote (“As delivered in Hindi”), while the Department of Defence retained the statement even as it added a note clarifying that it is based on the submission of the “Indian Government English-language interpreter”.

‘No Mention of China’

The controversy on Singh’s remarks is centred on the fact that India, caught in a months-long stand-off with China in Ladakh, decided not to mention Beijing explicitly in any of the remarks made during 2+2, even as the US was more upfront in its attacks on the Chinese Communist Party. 

The joint statement referred to Pakistan on issues such as cross-border terrorism, but China was not mentioned, apart from a reference to the fact that “the code of conduct in the South China Sea should not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of any nation in accordance with international law” with regards to the “shared vision for the Indo-Pacific and global partnership”. This was a clear signal to China, whose aggression in the South China Sea has been a matter of concern in the Asia-Pacific region.