Indian Army soldiers demonstrate positioning of a Bofors gun at Penga Teng Tso ahead of Tawang, near the Line of Actual Control (LAC), neighboring China, in India’s Arunachal Pradesh state on Oct. 20, 2021. (Money Sharma/AFP via Getty Images)
Indian and Chinese troops scuffled along the disputed Himalayan border on Dec. 9 as the latter attempted to transgress Indian territory, resulting in minor injuries on both sides, India’s defense minister said on Tuesday.
India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said that Chinese troops attempted to “unilaterally change the status quo” by crossing the line of actual control (LAC) at the Tawang Sector in India’s northeastern territory of Arunachal Pradesh, which borders southern China.
The LAC is an imaginary line of demarcation between the Indian-controlled territory and the Chinese-controlled area.
“The ensuing face-off led to a physical scuffle in which the Indian Army bravely prevented the [People’s Liberation Army] from transgressing into our territory and compelled them to return to their posts,” Singh told parliament.
No fatalities or serious injuries were reported on the Indian side. The minister did not specify how many soldiers were injured in the clash.
Singh said that India’s commander met with his Chinese counterpart on Dec. 11 and demanded that Chinese troops “refrain from such actions and maintain peace and tranquility along the border.”
The issue was also being communicated through diplomatic channels, he added.
China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters that the situation at the border is “generally stable” and urged India to adhere to “the relevant agreements” between the two nations, Global Times reported.
The scuffle was the first between the two countries since deadly clashes in June 2020 when Indian and Chinese troops were involved in hand-to-hand combat in Ladakh, which led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese troops.
US-India Joint Drills
The border clash happened just days after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime criticized India’s joint military exercises with the United States in Uttarakhand, about 62 miles from the LAC border.
The CCP said the U.S.-India joint drills “violated the spirit of relevant agreements signed by China and India in 1993 and 1996” and did not contribute to the development of bilateral trust between the two nations.
“China has expressed concerns to the Indian side over the military exercise,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters on Nov. 30.
The U.S.-India military drills, known as Yudh Abhyas, commenced on Nov. 19 and aimed to enhance interoperability and share expertise between both armies in peacekeeping and disaster relief operations.
India’s external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi hit back and said that the joint drills had nothing to do with the agreements Beijing had referred to. He urged the CCP to reflect on its own breaches of the agreements instead.
“India exercises with whomever it chooses to, and it does not give a veto to third countries on these issues,” Bagchi said at a press briefing on Dec. 1, according to local reports.
Tawang, on the border with Bhutan and China, isn’t new to Chinese intrusion. A sinologist told The Epoch Times that Chinese interest in the Himalayan regions of India is linked to its broader sinicization campaign targeting Tibetan Buddhism and specifically to its “reincarnation politics” aimed at controlling the institutions of Tibetan Buddhism on the border, in locations that could be the birthplace of the next Dalai Lama.
Tawang is home to a 340-year-old Tawang monastery and the birthplace of the Sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso (1680–1706).
Frank Lehberger, a senior fellow with the India-based think tank Usanas Foundation, said that Tibetans today believe that if it remains free of CCP interference, this place could again be the birthplace of a future Dalai Lama; thus, the CCP wants to control and even eradicate the monastery.
Indian Army personnel light candles in memory of those soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the 1962 Indo-China war at the Tawang War Memorial in Arunachal Pradesh, Indian, on Oct. 20, 2012. (Biju Boro/AFP via Getty Images)
“A possible Chinese goal in such a possible ‘reincarnation war’ could be to destroy or capture this important monastery in Tawang, in order to prevent that a future Dalai Lama would be identified or educated in this holy place,” Lehberger wrote in a paper published on the Usanas website last year.
“The so-called geopolitics of reincarnation is indeed the main reason why the PRC has since 2008 gradually intensified its controversial claim to the town and the ancient monastery of Tawang.”
He said that the Chinese regime’s State Administration of Religious Affairs and United Front Work Department have long-term plans to disrupt any future search and identification process of the next Dalai Lama.
“In order to preempt such a Chinese move, H.H. the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has at one time prophecized that his ‘reincarnation will appear in a free country.’ This could mean that at a future point in time, a future Fifteenth Dalai Lama could very well be found within India’s ethnic Tibetan communities in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh in the Himalayas,” Lehberger said, noting that these Indian states are home to autochthonous Tibetan-speaking populations.
This conflict over reincarnation politics could eventually drive a border war with India, similar to the ongoing clashes in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, he said.
Venus Upadhayaya and Reuters contributed to this report.