India and China dispute the demarcation along much of their nearly 3,500 km shared border, and even fought a brief but deadly border war in late 1962.
Between eight and nine Indian soldiers and multiple Chinese troops have sustained injuries after clashing along the border area of the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, Indian media have reported, citing government and Army sources.
The Army said a “few” Indian troopers sustained fractured limbs during the incident, which was said to have taken place December 9 as Chinese soldiers tried to dismantle an outpost set up by Indian forces in the Yangtse area of the Tawang Sector. No fatalities were reported.
Indian sources further indicated that over 600 Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops were present in the area at the time that the clashes occurred. The Indian side also said that its forces confronted PLA soldiers “in a firm and resolute manner,” and that “this face-off led to minor injuries to [a] few personnel from both sides.”
Both Chinese and Indian forces were said to have subsequently pulled back from the disputed area following the clash, according to the Indian side. Local commanders from the two countries are said to have subsequently met to discuss the incident and deescalate tensions.
The Chinese government and media have yet to comment on the reported incident.
India and China disagree heavily regarding the border between Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet, with Beijing saying that the current border demarcation line is a result of British imperialism, and that the self-proclaimed Tibetan government that existed in the 1930s and 1940s during China’s time of troubles had no treaty-making powers. Accordingly, Chinese officials have laid claim to nearly the entire Indian state. Delhi has disregarded China’s territorial claims.
The dispute has sparked repeated clashes between the Asian giants, including a deadly incident in 1975 in which four Indian troops were killed. Subsequent incidents have often involved soldiers using their fists, rocks, or makeshift weapons instead of firearms. In 2021, two emergency hotlines were set up between Indian and Chinese commanders in the region aimed at resolving crises like the December 9 incident. Four other hotlines were set up in other disputed areas.
Arunachal Pradesh, which on Chinese maps is labeled as “South Tibet,” is one of several major disputed territories between India and China, with the other major one being Aksai Chin, which is administered by China but claimed by India as part of its Leh district in the Ladakh Union Territory. Wide swathes of border areas in Kashmir, northeastern India, and Sikkim are also disputed, with one side or the other occupying slivers of mostly rocky, inhospitable, and economically “less than negligible” mountainous areas.
The Sino-Indian border dispute is a boon to countries for whom either nation is an adversary, with the United States, for example, able to strengthen its partnership with India citing the alleged “Chinese threat.” For countries like Russia, which enjoys good relations with both China and India, the dispute is an issue blocking expanded regional cooperation in Eurasia. Consequently, Moscow has done what it can over the decades to try to mediate the dispute, and supported a range of venues that seek to enhance communications between the two countries, such as BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.