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


Hongkong
CNN

Video of seemingly previously unreported violence between Indian and Chinese troops on the disputed Himalayan border has emerged online, offering a rare window into long-simmering territorial tensions between the two Asian powers.

The video was shot in September along the Line of Actual Control — the actual border between the two countries — in India’s mountainous Arunachal Pradesh state, according to an active-duty Indian military official with knowledge of the clashes on the Sino-Indian border. February 28, 2021.

CNN has reached out to China’s Foreign Ministry for comment on the video.

While it’s unclear who shot or posted the video, it went viral in India on Tuesday, hours after India’s defense ministry confirmed a fight broke out on the border in India’s remote Tawang region in northeastern India on Friday. spread in the media. It was the first reported incident in nearly two years.

In video, which CNN could not independently verify, troops from both countries can be seen in the mountains, surrounded by green hills apparently untouched by winter. Although they were separated by barbed wire, the video appeared to show Indian troops beating the Chinese soldiers with improvised weapons, including what appeared to be wooden sticks and metal pipes. In some cases, Indian soldiers could be seen throwing bricks or stones.

Many of the Chinese soldiers gathered on the other side of the wire also appeared to be carrying long clubs or batons.

Eventually the barbed wire fell and Indian soldiers pushed forward, prompting Chinese troops to leap over a low stone wall and leave the area, cheered by the Indian side.

Indian military sources said that due to the different views of the border between the two sides and the patrols they conducted along the actual control line, border crossings occurred frequently.

Several experts interviewed by CNN agreed that the video did not depict recent clashes because there was no apparent snow accumulation. However, the video does offer insight into ongoing tensions, about which information is often highly restricted by authorities.

“It shows how quickly things can deteriorate if tensions between the two sides are not eased,” said Sushant Singh, a senior fellow at the Center for Policy Studies, an Indian think tank.

The shared 2,100-mile (3,379-kilometer) border has long been a source of friction between India and China. The two countries disagree on its exact location, and each has often accused the other of crossing the border or trying to expand its territory.

Despite a series of mostly non-lethal dogfights over the years over the border location, tensions escalated sharply in June 2020 when hand-to-hand combat between the two sides killed at least 20 Indians and four Chinese soldiers.

Other skirmishes that have since erupted have been downplayed by authorities, experts say. “When I talk to officials, the thinking among Indians is that if the situation can be resolved on a very local level, at an operational level between local commanders, it will not develop into a major international issue, politically Leaders are already involved,” Singh said.

But unlike those apparently downplayed events, Friday’s skirmish was reported by Indian media. Singh said such reports, along with pressure from domestic political opponents, could prompt the Indian government to discuss the incident publicly.

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

In a statement posted online later that evening, the Chinese military’s Western Theater Command accused Indian troops of “illegally” entering the Chinese side of the border.

The location of Friday’s clash is also important, Singh said. Tawang is a Buddhist town with a revered monastery that plays a central role in Tibet’s internal politics, and the town itself is strategically important to China’s handling of Tibetan affairs.

Tibet is an internationally recognized autonomous region within the People’s Republic of China, although many Tibetans question the legitimacy of Chinese rule. Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has been in exile in India since a failed uprising against China’s occupation of Tibet in 1959.

While the origin of the newly emerged video is unclear, the timing of its release — shortly after Indian authorities confirmed Friday’s clashes in Tawang — has raised questions.

Ian Hall, deputy director of the Griffith Asia Institute, said the video appeared to show “a victory for India”. “I think it was released to reinforce the Indian government’s claim that it is vigorously defending India’s claims.”

He added that given the lack of transparency surrounding the situation at the border, the government has been under increasing pressure since 2020 from political opponents “about what exactly happened … and how much ground was lost.”

Singh added that the Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has faced domestic criticism for not taking a tougher stance against China – meaning videos like this one, which appear to show that India’s military response is firm, Reflecting the “nationalist sentiment” of the Indian population and political opposition.

“I think these types of videos allow this political narrative to play out domestically — it looks like we’ve had a strong reaction,” he said, adding that it was “highly likely” that the timing of the video was to support the country’s leadership layers and armies.

But more importantly, the video illustrates just how dangerous the situation on the border 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 under a mutual disengagement agreement that would see China withdraw its troops and dismantle infrastructure along the border in 2021. But progress has stalled since then, with relations between the two countries deteriorating further as India grew closer to the United States, while U.S.-China relations hit new lows.

“This video is a reminder to the rest of the world that Latin America and the Caribbean remains unstable — more so than it was before 2020,” Hall said.

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