Video of India-China border clash shows troops fighting with sticks and bricks

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Video of what appears to be a previously unseen violent clash between Indian and Chinese troops at their disputed Himalayan border has emerged online, offering a rare window into long-simmering territorial tensions between the two Asian powers. .

The video, according to a serving Indian military officer familiar with the clashes on the China-India border, was filmed in the mountainous Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh on the Line of Actual Control – the de facto border between the two countries – in September. 28, 2021.

CNN has contacted the Chinese Foreign Ministry to comment on the video.

Although it is unclear who filmed or released the video, it began circulating on Indian social media on Tuesday just hours after India’s Ministry of Defense confirmed a fight had taken place at the border. Friday in the remote area of ​​Tawang in northeastern India. The first reported incident in nearly two years.

In the video – which CNN cannot independently verify – troops from both countries are seen in mountainous terrain, surrounded by green hills seemingly untouched by winter. Although separated by barbed wire, footage appears to show Indian troops beating Chinese soldiers with makeshift weapons, including what look like wooden sticks and metal pipes. In several instances, Indian soldiers can be seen throwing bricks or stones.

Many Chinese soldiers, gathered on the other side of the wire, also appear to be holding long sticks or truncheons.

Eventually the barbed wire crumbles and the Indian soldiers advance, prompting the Chinese troops to jump over a low stone wall and leave the area, to cheers from the Indian side.

The Indian military source said the transgressions occur frequently due to the different perceptions on both sides of the border – and the patrols they carry out along the LAC.

Several experts who spoke to CNN agreed that the video did not represent a recent clash given the lack of visible snow. However, the video offers insight into ongoing tensions, information about which is usually highly restricted by authorities.

“It’s an illustration of how quickly things can go south if tensions aren’t reduced between the two sides,” said Sushant Singh, senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research, an Indian think tank.

The 2,100 mile (3,379 kilometer) shared border has long been the source of friction between India and China. The two countries do not agree on its precise location and regularly accuse each other of exceeding it, or of seeking to extend their territory.

Although a series of mostly non-lethal skirmishes over the border position have taken place over the years, tensions escalated sharply in June 2020 when hand-to-hand fighting between the two sides resulted in the death of at least 20 Indians and four Chinese soldiers.

Experts say other skirmishes that have broken out since have been played down by authorities. “The Indian thought, when I speak with the officials, is that if the situation can be resolved at a very local level, at an operational level between local commanders, it does not explode into a big major international problem where the political leadership has to be involved,” Singh said.

But unlike those seemingly downplayed incidents, Friday’s skirmish was reported by Indian media. That coverage, along with pressure from domestic political opposition, could have prompted the Indian government to publicly discuss the incident, Singh said.

Addressing lawmakers on Tuesday, India’s defense minister accused Chinese troops of trying to cross the ALC, saying they were trying to “unilaterally” change the status quo. Soldiers from both sides were lightly injured, he said.

Later that evening, in a statement posted online, the Chinese military’s Western Theater Command accused Indian troops of crossing “illegally” to the Chinese side of the border.

The venue for Friday’s clash is also important, Singh said. Tawang, a Buddhist city, is home to a revered monastery that plays a central role in Tibetan domestic politics, and the city itself is strategically important to China in handling Tibetan affairs.

Tibet is an internationally recognized autonomous region within the People’s Republic of China, although many Tibetans dispute the legitimacy of the Chinese regime. Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has been in exile in India since an unsuccessful revolt against the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959.

Although the source of the new video is unclear, the timing of its release – shortly after Indian authorities confirmed the Tawang clash on Friday – has raised questions.

The video appears to show “an Indian victory”, said Ian Hall, deputy director of the Griffith Asia Institute. “I believe it was released to reinforce the Indian government’s narrative that it is vigorously defending India’s claims.”

He added that given the opacity of information surrounding the border situation, the government has come under increased pressure from its political opponents since 2020 “over exactly what happened…and how much ground has been lost”.

Singh added that the Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has come under national criticism for not taking a tougher stance on China – meaning videos like this, appearing to show a firm Indian military response, reflect the “nationalistic mood” among the Indians. Population and political opposition.

“I think these kinds of videos allow this political narrative to unfold on a national level – this look, we respond loudly,” he said, adding that it was “strongly possible” that the video was programmed. to build support for the country’s leadership and military.

But more importantly, the video illustrates just how precarious the border situation is and how quickly violence can erupt and potentially escalate.

Chinese and Indian officials have held a series of talks over the past few years, with China withdrawing troops and dismantling infrastructure along the border in 2021 as part of a mutual disengagement agreement. But progress has since stalled, with relations unraveling further as India grew closer to the United States, while US-China relations hit new lows.

“The video reminds the rest of the world that the LAC is still unstable – much more so than it was before 2020,” Hall said.


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