Hong Kong Eureka News Now —
A video has surfaced online that appears to depict a previously unreported violent clash between Indian and Chinese troops on their disputed Himalayan border, offering a rare glimpse into long-simmering territorial tensions between the two Asian powers.
According to a serving Indian military officer with knowledge of the clashes at the China-India border, the video was filmed in the Indian mountainous state of Arunachal Pradesh at the Line of Actual Control – the de facto border between the two countries – on September 28th, 2021.
Eureka News Now has reached out to the Chinese Foreign Ministry for comment on the video.
Although it is not clear who filmed or released the video, it was circulated on Indian social media on Tuesday, just hours after India’s Defense Ministry confirmed that a border brawl broke out in the remote Tawang sector of north-eastern India on Friday had taken place. The first reported incident in almost two years.
In the video – which Eureka News Now cannot independently verify – troops from both countries can be seen on mountainous terrain surrounded by green hills that appear untouched by winter. Although separated by barbed wire, the footage appears to show Indian troops beating the Chinese soldiers with makeshift weapons, including what appear to be wooden sticks and metal pipes. In several instances, Indian soldiers can be seen throwing bricks or stones.
Many of the Chinese soldiers gathered on the other side of the wire also appear to be holding long sticks or batons.
Eventually the barbed wire collapses and the Indian soldiers advance, prompting the Chinese troops to jump over a short stone wall and leave the area to cheer from the Indian side.
The Indian military source said transgressions are common due to the two sides’ different perceptions of the border – and the patrols they conduct along the LAC.
Several experts who spoke to Eureka News Now agreed that the video does not represent a recent collision given the lack of visible snow. But the video offers a glimpse into the ongoing tensions, information about which is usually severely restricted by authorities.
“It’s an example of how quickly things can go wrong if tensions between the two sides are not reduced,” said Sushant Singh, a senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research, an Indian think tank.
The shared 3,379-kilometer border has long been the source of friction between India and China. The two countries disagree on the exact location, regularly accusing the other of crossing it or trying to expand their territory.
Although there have been a number of mostly non-lethal skirmishes over the years over the location of the border, tensions escalated sharply in June 2020 when hand-to-hand fighting between the two sides resulted in the deaths of at least 20 Indians and four Chinese soldiers.
Experts say other skirmishes that have erupted since then have been downplayed by authorities. “The Indian thought when I speak to the officials is that if the situation can be resolved at a very local level, at an operational level between local commanders, it doesn’t turn into a big, big international problem where the political Leadership has to be involved,” Singh said.
But in contrast to these seemingly downplayed incidents, Friday’s skirmish was covered 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.
Speaking to lawmakers on Tuesday, India’s defense minister accused Chinese troops of trying to cross the LAC and said they were trying to “unilaterally” change the status quo. Soldiers from both sides were slightly injured, he said.
Later that evening, in a statement posted online, the Chinese military’s Western Theater Command accused Indian troops of “illegally” crossing the Chinese side of the border.
The location of Friday’s clash is also significant, 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 strategic for China to deal with Tibetan affairs.
Tibet is an internationally recognized autonomous region within the People’s Republic of China, although many Tibetans dispute the legitimacy of Chinese rule. The spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, has lived in exile in India since an unsuccessful revolt against the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959.
Though the source of the newly emerged video is unclear, the timing of its release – shortly after Indian authorities confirmed Friday’s Tawang clash – has raised questions.
The video appears to show “an Indian victory,” said Ian Hall, associate director of the Griffith Asia Institute. “I think it was released to reinforce the Indian government’s narrative that they are staunchly defending India’s claims.”
He added that since 2020, given the opacity of information about the border situation, the government has been under increasing pressure from its political opponents “what exactly happened… and how much ground has been lost”.
Singh added that the Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has faced domestic criticism for failing to take a stronger stance on China – meaning videos like this one, which appear to show a determined Indian military response, have drawn the “nationalist mood” among Indians reflect population and political opposition.
“I think these types of videos allow for that political narrative to play out domestically – that look, we react strongly,” he said, adding that it was “highly possible” that the video was timed to to strengthen support for the country’s leadership and military.
But more importantly, the video shows 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 in recent years, with China withdrawing troops and dismantling infrastructure along the border under a mutual withdrawal agreement in 2021. Since then, however, progress has stalled as ties have further crumbled as India drew closer to the United States, while US-China ties have plummeted to new lows.
“The video is a reminder to the rest of the world that the LAC is still volatile — much more so than it was before 2020,” Hall said.