Indian and Chinese soldiers clashed along the Line of Actual Control (L.A.C.) in the Tawang sector of India’s Arunachal Pradesh state, The Hindu reported, citing several sources from India’s defense and security establishments. Around 20 Indian soldiers and “a much higher number on the Chinese side” suffered injuries during the face-off, though “both sides immediately disengaged from the area,” Indian Army said.
After reports of the incident, the Indian Army stated that on December 9th “People’s Liberation Army (P.L.A.) troops contacted the L.A.C. in Tawang sector,” which led to Indian troops responding “in a firm and resolute manner.” A P.L.A. Western Theatre Command spokesperson rejected the Indian version of the story, claiming that Chinese troops “were obstructed by the Indian army who illegally crossed the Line (of Actual Control).” However, both sides agreed that overall the region remains peaceful. Indian Army Chief Manoj Pande said the situation in eastern Ladakh is “stable but unpredictable.”
The brawl marks the latest violence in the lingering border standoff since June 2020, when dozens of troops from both countries were killed in a deadly confrontation. Tensions have intermittently flared along the L.A.C. for decades, but recent years have seen intensified exchanges between opposing soldiers as both sides have stepped up patrols and carried out a massive military build-up. The neighbours have stationed tens of thousands of troops in addition to artillery, tanks, and fighter jets near the boundary, N.P.R. reported.
A solution to the territorial dispute remains elusive for several reasons. First, existing mechanisms have failed to officially demarcate the China-India boundary and establish a framework for a comprehensive settlement. Despite a number of disengagement agreements, armed co-existence continues to characterise the border regions. Second, both sides have taken a strong military posture and adopted sharp rhetoric toward their claims. These factors have made the dispute increasingly intractable, raising the stakes of the conflict and making broad de-escalation harder to achieve.
Beijing especially signaled that it will maintain a hard line on the border controversy. In July 2021, President Xi Jinping made his first official visit to Tibet in 30 years, during which he urged the local population to “defend the territory and build the homeland.” His statement referred to China’s construction of villages with roads, fiber-optic cable, and electricity in the border territory, which can be used for civilian or for military purposes. The latest incident suggests that China is unlikely to cede ground, even while Beijing works to avoid escalation with New Delhi through diplomatic means.
The December 2022 clash demonstrated that a strategy based on mutual deterrence is insufficient to eliminate the risk of flare-ups in China-India border areas. Since both sides consider the dispute to be an internal issue and resist external mediation efforts, they must find compromises and concessions through bilateral channels. To reduce the number of military encounters and establish peace in the region, policymakers should prioritize non-violent approaches to conflict resolution, such as involving local communities in border management and creating soft borders through civilian, cultural, and economic exchanges.
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