On June 16, 2020, the Indian Army announced several of its soldiers had been killed after clashes with the People's Liberation Army in the disputed Himalayan region of the Galwan Valley. Immediately after the event, China's Western Theater Command was placed on a higher alert level. The clash will undoubtedly raise tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and thus increase the chance of a larger shooting war.
The incident reportedly began after an Indian and Chinese patrol met in a disputed area of the LAC. Although Indian troops were initially outnumbered, they refused to give ground and awaited reinforcements. The skirmish seemingly resembled an ancient battlefield, as troops limited their weapons to branches, stones, and batons. Firearms were not utilized during the initial melee, although unconfirmed reports have indicated firefights may have occurred in other areas of the LAC. At the end of the day, at least one Indian Colonel and nineteen enlisted troops lay dead, while open source intelligence (OSINT) indicates that roughly forty Chinese troops were killed or injured. Senior military officials from both nations are currently meeting in hopes of defusing tensions.
The Chinese government was quick to respond to the incident, and claimed that Indian soldiers were crossing the border onto the PRC's territory illegally despite previous agreements. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian declared, "We are sternly demanding India to earnestly abide by the relevant agreement and strictly restrain their frontline troops. They should not cross the border lines. They should not stir up trouble. And they should not take any unilateral actions that would complicate the situation on the border."
Clashes between the two nuclear armed powers are relatively rare, especially given the difficulty of patrolling a nearly 2,520 mile long border. Disputes over territorial borders have long served as a point of contention between India and the PRC. In the 1960s, these two states participated in a bloody border war that only seemed to amplify, instead of solve, existing claims. This came to a head in 2017, when a standoff resulted in increased military deployments to the area.
The world had seemingly forgotten about the dispute until last month, when the PLA moved an Airborne brigade into areas along the eastern Ladakh border. The Indian Armed Forces quickly responded, and ordered several infantry battalions intro positions near the Sino-Indian border. Since then, increased activity on both sides has increased the potential for of a larger and deadlier conflict.
Exactly what direction the stand-off will take remains a mystery. Although some remain hopeful that the situation can be resolved peacefully, others believe that the situation can only be settled through force.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Army, Department of Defense, or the United States Government.