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The History of India-China Stand-Offs at the Border: Everything You Need To Know

Indian and Chinese troops reportedly clashed on 9 December at the border, with no serious injuries on either side.

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After two years of calm, Indian troops clashed with Chinese troops along the border of Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh on Friday, 9 December.

The skirmish, which the Indian army said was "immediatedly disengaged", reportedly left six Indian troops injured, Reuters reported.

In Parliament, India's Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh, said that Indian soldiers had prevented an attempted incursion by the Chinese People's Liberation Army, adding that, while some soldiers were hurt, no soldiers were killed or seriously injured in the clash.

The clash marks the first major escalation between India and China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in over two years, but it isn't the first, and likely won't be the last. Which raises some questions - How many times have India and China clashed at the border? What led to this specific clash? And how has India's relationship with its neighbour to the northeast been so far?

Let's find out.

The History of India-China Stand-Offs at the Border: Everything You Need To Know

  1. 1. The 2020 Galwan Face-off

    Indian and Chinese troops reportedly clashed on 9 December at the border, with no serious injuries on either side.

    China attempted to claim territory beyond the LAC in Indian territory in 2020.

    (Graphics: The Quint)

    In June 2020, one month after tensions began escalating between troops at the LAC, twenty Indian armed forces members were killed in a violent face-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers at the disputed border in Ladakh's Galwan.

    Tensions began escalating between India and China at Galwan on 10 May 2020, when soldiers from both sides engaged in "a violent face-off" with sticks, clubs, and stones. India stated that Chinese troops tried to claim territory beyond the Line of Actual Control, in Indian soil.

    Indian officials stated that Chinese troops had attempted an incursion and that Indian forces had repelled the attempt.

    A month later, on 15 June, the situation escalated with 20 Indian troops killed, and over 70 injured, according to an official statement.

    The incident was the most serious escalation in clashes between Indian and Chinese troops in over 60 years, and the first loss of life at the border area since 1975.

    US intelligence reports stated that 35 Chinese troops had been killed in the skirmish, with over 60 injured.

    The situation remained tense till February 2021, when after ten rounds of diplomatic talks between India and China from September 2020 to February 2021, troops from both sides reportedly withdrew from the area.

    Expand
  2. 2. The 2017 Doklam Standoff

    Indian and Chinese troops reportedly clashed on 9 December at the border, with no serious injuries on either side.

    The 2017 Doklam standoff was the last major escalation between India and China at the border prior to the 2020 Galwan faceoff.

    (Photo: The Quint)

    The 2017 Doklam standoff was the last major escalation between India and China at the border prior to the 2020 Galwan faceoff. On 16 June 2017, Chinese troops escorting construction vehicles and equipment began extending a road in Doklam southward, into territory that's claimed by both China and Bhutan.

    The area, known as Donglang, is a trijunction border AKA a border where India, Bhutan, and China's borders meet. While India doesn't claim this disputed area, diplomatically it stands by Bhutan's claim to the area.

    In defense of its ally Bhutan's territory, India sent troops with bulldozers to cross the border into Doklam and stop Chinese construction, just two days later, on 18 June.

    The tense standoff culminated in a melee clash on 15 August, when Indian and Chinese soldiers were injured after Chinese soldiers reportedly entered Indian territory in Ladakh near Pangong Tso Lake.

    On 28 August, both countries stated that they had withdrawn their troops from Doklam, and two months later, in October 2017, China released a statement that it was ready to maintain peace at frontiers with India.

    Expand
  3. 3. The 2013 Depsang Standoff

    Indian and Chinese troops reportedly clashed on 9 December at the border, with no serious injuries on either side.

    A representative map of the area where the standoff took place.

    (Image courtesy: Creative Commons)

    On the night of 15 April, 2013, troops of the Chinese People's Liberation Army entered from the northeast into the Aksai Chin area of Jammu and Kashmir and set up four tents, along with SUVs and dogs.

    The camp, which was set up in Raki Nala, a dry riverbed approximately 20 kilometres south of the LAC, in Depsang Bulge, was discovered by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) the next day.

    The ITBP then responded by setting up eight tents of their own less than 300 metres from the Chinese troops.

    Over the next three weeks, talks continued between India and China, ultimately resulting in India agreeing to destroy some bunkers it had set up in Chumar region, 250 kilometres south of the border where the incursion took place. India refused to escalate military deployment, and on 5 May 2013, the standoff came to an end.

    Expand
  4. 4. The Sumdorong Chu Standoff and Peace Treaties

    From October 1986 to May 1987, troops of the Indian and Chinese armies had a standoff at Sumdorong Chu valley, on the border of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.

    The standoff began after China moved troops to Wangdung, just south of Sumdorong Chu valley, an area claimed by India. It was initiated by China moving a company of troops to Wangdung, a pasture to the south of Sumdorong Chu that India believed to be its territory, and setting up semi-permanent structures.

    India had been sending members of the Intelligence Bureau every year from 1983, to stay in the area. However in 1986, Indian troops arrived to find Chinese troops had already reached the region and set up camp.

    Military deployment was increased on both sides, but ended before full blown escalation after a visit to Beijing by India's then-External Affairs Minister Narayan Dutta Tiwari.

    The standoff also lead to the signing of the 1993 Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement between India and China, to maintain status quo at the border, as well as two other follow-up agreements in 1996 and 2005.

    Expand
  5. 5. The Nathu La and Cho La Clashes

    The last major clash between Indian and Chinese troops before the Sumdorong standoff, was in 1967, when Sikkim was still under India's protection but not officially a part of India. The clashes came just five years after the 1962 Sino-Indian war, when tensions were still high at the border between India and China.

    Chinese troops attacked Indian defense posts at Nathu La, from 11 to 15 September 1967. A month later, in October, clashes took place in the Cho La region.

    Both clashes combined, India reported the deaths of 88 armed forces members and 163 left injured, with 340 killed on the Chinese side, and 450 wounded. The border reportedly didn't witness any major violent clashes after this, until 2020.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

The 2020 Galwan Face-off

Indian and Chinese troops reportedly clashed on 9 December at the border, with no serious injuries on either side.

China attempted to claim territory beyond the LAC in Indian territory in 2020.

(Graphics: The Quint)

In June 2020, one month after tensions began escalating between troops at the LAC, twenty Indian armed forces members were killed in a violent face-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers at the disputed border in Ladakh's Galwan.

Tensions began escalating between India and China at Galwan on 10 May 2020, when soldiers from both sides engaged in "a violent face-off" with sticks, clubs, and stones. India stated that Chinese troops tried to claim territory beyond the Line of Actual Control, in Indian soil.

Indian officials stated that Chinese troops had attempted an incursion and that Indian forces had repelled the attempt.

A month later, on 15 June, the situation escalated with 20 Indian troops killed, and over 70 injured, according to an official statement.

The incident was the most serious escalation in clashes between Indian and Chinese troops in over 60 years, and the first loss of life at the border area since 1975.

US intelligence reports stated that 35 Chinese troops had been killed in the skirmish, with over 60 injured.

The situation remained tense till February 2021, when after ten rounds of diplomatic talks between India and China from September 2020 to February 2021, troops from both sides reportedly withdrew from the area.

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The 2017 Doklam Standoff

Indian and Chinese troops reportedly clashed on 9 December at the border, with no serious injuries on either side.

The 2017 Doklam standoff was the last major escalation between India and China at the border prior to the 2020 Galwan faceoff.

(Photo: The Quint)

The 2017 Doklam standoff was the last major escalation between India and China at the border prior to the 2020 Galwan faceoff. On 16 June 2017, Chinese troops escorting construction vehicles and equipment began extending a road in Doklam southward, into territory that's claimed by both China and Bhutan.

The area, known as Donglang, is a trijunction border AKA a border where India, Bhutan, and China's borders meet. While India doesn't claim this disputed area, diplomatically it stands by Bhutan's claim to the area.

In defense of its ally Bhutan's territory, India sent troops with bulldozers to cross the border into Doklam and stop Chinese construction, just two days later, on 18 June.

The tense standoff culminated in a melee clash on 15 August, when Indian and Chinese soldiers were injured after Chinese soldiers reportedly entered Indian territory in Ladakh near Pangong Tso Lake.

On 28 August, both countries stated that they had withdrawn their troops from Doklam, and two months later, in October 2017, China released a statement that it was ready to maintain peace at frontiers with India.

The 2013 Depsang Standoff

Indian and Chinese troops reportedly clashed on 9 December at the border, with no serious injuries on either side.

A representative map of the area where the standoff took place.

(Image courtesy: Creative Commons)

On the night of 15 April, 2013, troops of the Chinese People's Liberation Army entered from the northeast into the Aksai Chin area of Jammu and Kashmir and set up four tents, along with SUVs and dogs.

The camp, which was set up in Raki Nala, a dry riverbed approximately 20 kilometres south of the LAC, in Depsang Bulge, was discovered by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) the next day.

The ITBP then responded by setting up eight tents of their own less than 300 metres from the Chinese troops.

Over the next three weeks, talks continued between India and China, ultimately resulting in India agreeing to destroy some bunkers it had set up in Chumar region, 250 kilometres south of the border where the incursion took place. India refused to escalate military deployment, and on 5 May 2013, the standoff came to an end.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

The Sumdorong Chu Standoff and Peace Treaties

From October 1986 to May 1987, troops of the Indian and Chinese armies had a standoff at Sumdorong Chu valley, on the border of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.

The standoff began after China moved troops to Wangdung, just south of Sumdorong Chu valley, an area claimed by India. It was initiated by China moving a company of troops to Wangdung, a pasture to the south of Sumdorong Chu that India believed to be its territory, and setting up semi-permanent structures.

India had been sending members of the Intelligence Bureau every year from 1983, to stay in the area. However in 1986, Indian troops arrived to find Chinese troops had already reached the region and set up camp.

Military deployment was increased on both sides, but ended before full blown escalation after a visit to Beijing by India's then-External Affairs Minister Narayan Dutta Tiwari.

The standoff also lead to the signing of the 1993 Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement between India and China, to maintain status quo at the border, as well as two other follow-up agreements in 1996 and 2005.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

The Nathu La and Cho La Clashes

The last major clash between Indian and Chinese troops before the Sumdorong standoff, was in 1967, when Sikkim was still under India's protection but not officially a part of India. The clashes came just five years after the 1962 Sino-Indian war, when tensions were still high at the border between India and China.

Chinese troops attacked Indian defense posts at Nathu La, from 11 to 15 September 1967. A month later, in October, clashes took place in the Cho La region.

Both clashes combined, India reported the deaths of 88 armed forces members and 163 left injured, with 340 killed on the Chinese side, and 450 wounded. The border reportedly didn't witness any major violent clashes after this, until 2020.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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