The first known incident between the two nuclear-armed Asian powers in nearly two years occurred on their disputed Himalayan border.
The Indian Ministry of Defense said in a statement that soldiers from both sides were injured in the clash, which occurred Friday in the Tawang Sector of India’s northeastern territory of Arunachal Pradesh, a remote, inhospitable region bordering southern China.
The disputed border has long been a source of contention between New Delhi and Beijing, with tensions escalating sharply in June 2020 when hand-to-hand fighting between the two sides killed at least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers in Aksai Chin-Ladakh.
According to a statement obtained by CNN from the Indian Ministry of Defense, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops “contacted” the line of actual control (LAC) – the de facto border – which was contested by Indian Army troops “firmly and resolutely.”
Both sides “immediately disengaged from the area,” according to the statement, and the respective commanders held a flag meeting to discuss the issue in “accordance with structured mechanisms to restore peace and tranquillity.” China has yet to issue an official statement on the incident.
Speaking to members of Parliament last week, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar stated that India had “diplomatically” told China that it “will not tolerate attempts to unilaterally change” the LAC.
“And that so long as they continue to seek to do that, and if they have built up forces that in our minds constitute a serious concern in the border areas,” Jaishankar said in response to a question about Sino-Indian relations, adding that military commanders “continue to engage each other.”
In 1962, India and China went to war over their border regions, resulting in the formation of the LAC. However, the two countries cannot agree on its exact location, and each regularly accuses the other of overstepping or attempting to expand their territory. According to an Indian Army statement at the time, there have been a series of mostly non-lethal scuffles over the position of the border in the years since, including as recently as 2021.
On October 21, 2021, an Indian Army truck convoy drives along a road near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to Tawang.
According to New Delhi, Indian and Chinese troops have disengaged from the disputed border area.
Two years after clashes at the border strained diplomatic ties, the Indian government announced in September that Indian and Chinese troops had begun disengaging from the Gogra-Hotsprings border area in the western Himalayas.
This statement came ahead of a regional summit in Uzbekistan, which both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend.
Both sides are keeping a close eye on what is going on in the region.
On November 30, China’s Foreign Ministry criticized high-altitude joint exercises between US and Indian troops in Uttarakhand, northern India, saying they “did not help build bilateral trust” and that Beijing had expressed concerns to New Delhi.
In recent years, as China-US relations have deteriorated and the Quad security dialogue, which includes India, the US, and American allies Japan and Australia, has become more active, China has grown wary of India’s ties with the US.
Modi and Chinese President Xi met last month at the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Bali, where they shook hands but did not have a bilateral meeting.