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India-China border tension | The history of skirmishes between the two neighbouring countries

India and China shared a cordial relationship in the initial years after India gained independence, but it did not last long

June 17, 2020 / 07:44 AM IST

In the clashes between Indian and Chinese troops along the border in eastern Ladakh, one Indian Army officer and two soldiers were martyred on the night of June 15. Tensions between the two nations have been escalating for a month now with reports of Chinese incursion coming in.

After the 2017 India-China standoff in Doklam ended, many heaved a sigh of relief knowing the tensions were nipped before they could escalate into a full-fledged war. But was it really an assurance that one would not witness similar incidents in the future? We know better now.

However, border disputes concerning the 3,488 km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the Dragon and the Elephant are really not something new. India and China shared a cordial relationship in the initial years after India gained independence, but it did not last long and ended with the Sino-Indian War of 1962.

Let us take a look at the past stand-offs and skirmishes:

To really understand what spurs the tensions along the border, one must first learn about the bones of contention. The India-China border is divided into three sectors, namely Western sector along Ladakh, Middle sector bordering Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and the Eastern sector that passes along Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.


While the Middle sector has not contributed to much trouble, both the West and the East remain turbulent. While India accuses China of occupying Aksai Chin area in Ladakh illegally, the latter does not recognise the McMahon Line as an official border since Tibetan representatives signed it at the 1914 Simla Convention. They even claim to own the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh.

1962: The first Sino-Indian war of 1962 was fought between the two nations over China claiming sovereignty of the Aksai Chin region and Arunachal Pradesh. Tensions had begun escalating with India granting political asylum to the Dalai Lama after the 1959 Tibetan uprising. More than 3,000 Indian soldiers were martyred in the war and the Chinese troops occupied Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh. A ceasefire was declared later, and they withdrew from the Northeast.

1967: Five years later, the People’s Liberation Army launched another attack on India along Nathu La pass in September 1967. A month later, clashes were reported at the Cho La pass. Though many do not recognise these two events as a full-fledged war, Government of India claimed 88 Indian Army men and 340 PLA troopers died in the clashes. The main reason behind these attacks is believed to be a Chinese attempt to gain control of the disputed area in Chumbi Valley.

1987: While China claimed Arunachal Pradesh to be its own, India had started building its defences under Indira Gandhi. The Indian Army’s movement in Tawang had irked Beijing, who saw it as a provocation and threatened India with war. India retaliated by awarding full statehood to Arunachal in 1987, following which face-offs between the PLA and the Indian Army were reported from Sulu La and Bum La.

2013: PLA troopers started setting up camp in Raki Nula, close to the Aksai Chin area. Indian troopers retaliated by setting up camp just 300 metres away. The matter worsened as China started getting reinforcements and tensions brewed for three weeks before it gradually died down.

2014: Another three-week face-off was reported when India started building a 100-foot long water channel for villagers in Demchok. Another 16-day stand-off was reported from Chumar at the same time after Chinese workers had arrived there to construct a road that would intrude five kilometres into Indian territory.

2015: Chinese troopers had built a makeshift hut in Burtse, North Ladakh, which was demolished by a joint team of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Indian Army.

2017: A 73-day standoff took place between the two armies over China trying to construct a road in the Doklam region, that is claimed by both China and Bhutan. Extending support to Bhutan, India had sent 270 troopers to the disputed area. The stand-off ended when both armies agreed to withdraw from Doklam and the road construction was stopped.

2018: Chinese army intruded 400 metres into Indian territory along eastern Ladakh and set up tents to protest the construction of a road in the Nerlong area of Ladakh.

Read our complete coverage on the India-China border tension.
Jagyaseni Biswas
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