Indian and Chinese troops have clashed on their disputed Himalayan border, the first known incident between the two nuclear-armed Asian powers in nearly two years.
In a statement, India’s Ministry of Defense said soldiers from both sides sustained minor injuries in the face-off, which took place Friday in the Tawang Sector in India’s northeastern territory of Arunachal Pradesh, a remote, inhospitable region that borders southern China.
The 2,100 mile-long (3,379-kilometer) disputed border has long been the source of friction between New Delhi and Beijing, with tensions escalating sharply in June 2020 when hand-to-hand fighting between the two sides resulted in the deaths of at least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers in Aksai Chin-Ladakh.
In the latest incident, 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 “in a firm and resolute manner,” according to the Indian Ministry of Defense statement obtained by CNN.
Both sides “immediately disengaged from the area” and the countries’ respective commanders there held a flag meeting to discuss the issue in “accordance with structured mechanisms to restore peace and tranquility,” the statement said. China has yet to comment on the incident officially.
Speaking to members of Parliament last week prior to the skirmish, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said India, “diplomatically” had been “very clear” with China that they “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, which in our minds constitute a serious concern in the border areas, then our relationship is not normal,” Jaishankar said, in response to a question on Sino-Indian relations, adding that the military commanders “continue to engage each other.”
India and China went to war over their border regions in 1962, eventually establishing the LAC. But the two countries do not agree on its precise location and both regularly accuse the other of overstepping it, or seeking to expand their territory. 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, according to a statement from the Indian Army at the time.
In September, the Indian government said that Indian and Chinese troops had begun disengaging from the Gogra-Hotsprings border area in the western Himalayas, two years after clashes at the frontier strained diplomatic ties.
That statement came ahead of a regional summit in Uzbekistan attended by both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Activities in the region remain closely watched on both sides.
On November 30, China’s Foreign Ministry criticized high altitude joint exercises conducted between US and Indian troops in northern India’s Uttarakhand, saying that the exercises did “not help build bilateral trust” and that Beijing had expressed concerns to New Delhi.
China has grown wary of India’s ties with the United States in recent years, as China-US relations have cratered and the Quad security dialogue, which includes India, the US, and American allies Japan and Australia has become more active.
Modi and Chinese leader Xi last met at the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Bali last month, where the two shook hands but did not have a bilateral sit-down.