India-China border dispute: A brief history of Sino-India conflicts

International Desk: In a violent clash with Chinese troops on 15 June, at least 20 Indian Army personnel including a colonel were tragically killed in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh. The Chinese side has not confirmed any casualties yet but according to American Intelligence, at least 35 Chinese soldiers including a senior ranking official died during the incident.

This latest conflict is the first fatal clash in the border area in more than four decades. This is the biggest clash between the two sides since the Nathula Pass conflict of 1967 which resulted in a major setback for China with a loss of more than 300 soldiers while around 80 Indian soldiers were martyred.

Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in a bitter standoff in several areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the mountainous eastern Ladakh for close to a month. This bloody clash can be considered as a big blow to the ties that were gradually improving between the countries after two ‘informal’ summits between PM Narendra Modi and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in 2018 and 2019.

The two Asian regional powers have a long history of mistrust and disputes along their lengthy border. The long border between the two countries which mounts the strategically decisive Himalayan region has neither been defined. The neighbouring countries have never agreed on their ‘Line of Actual Control (LAC)’ which can be considered as a major cause of the conflicts between the two neighbours.

The Ladakh standoff can be considered as another major instance in the long list of conflicts between the two countries. Here is a look at some other major conflicts:

Jawaharlal Nehru’s Beijing visit of 1959:


The border dispute between the countries first erupted during then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s first visit to Beijing in 1959.

Opposing the Chinese Government’s declaration that Jawaharlal Nehru had accepted the 1890 Sino- British treaty over Sikkim to support Beijing’s claim over the Dokalam area, the former Prime Minister questioned the boundaries shown on official Chinese maps. Nehru pointed out to China that it is claiming a sizeable part of Bhutan’s territory. He referred to the 1890 Sino-British treaty granting India’s sovereignty to Sikkim.

Nehru pointed out that it was not right to say that the frontier east of Bhutan as shown on Chinese maps is the traditional frontier. He also stated that the boundary decided in the conference of 1914 with the Tibetan and Chinese governments, the McMahon Line, correctly represents the customary boundary in this area. This prompted the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai to reply that his government did not accept the colonial frontier.

Sino-Indian war of 1962:

On October 20, 1962, the Chinese liberation Army attacked India and finally abandoned all attempts of peaceful resolution of the dispute over a Himalayan border, invading disputed territory along the 3,225-kilometer-long Himalayan border in Ladakh and across the Mc Mahon Line.

This resulted in a month-long war that ended on November 21 which left thousands of Indian soldiers dead before China declared a ceasefire. According to China’s official military history, the war achieved China’s policy objectives of securing borders in its western sector. Beijing retained Aksai Chin, a strategic corridor that links Tibet to Western China. India on the other hand still considers Aksai Chin as its own. The 1962 war helped set the tone of the narratives for decades to come.

Nathu La and Cho La clashes of 1967:

The Nathu La and Cho La clashes of 1967 which is also known as Second Sino-Indian war were a series of clashes including the use of artillery fire between India and China alongside the border of the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim.

The Nathu La clashes started on 11 September 1967 after Chinese troops infiltrated the Nathu La region in August and lasted till 15 September 1967. While another military clash took place in October 1967 at Cho La.

About 80 Indian soldiers were martyred and Chinese casualties counted up to 400.

According to sources, the Indian forces achieved a “decisive tactical advantage” and defeated the Chinese forces in these clashes. Many Chinese fortifications were said to be destroyed in Nathu La and The Chinese retaliated back.

Tulung La ambush of 1975:

On October 20, 1975, 4 Assam Rifles jawans on patrolling duty were killed when they were ambushed by Chinese soldiers at Tulung La in Arunachal Pradesh.

India officially claimed that the Chinese had crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and ambushed the patrol killing 4 Indian soldiers on October 20, 1975.

Meanwhile, China denied the claims and instead blamed India for the incident. They also accused the patrol of crossing the LAC and firing at a Chinese post.

This incident is often remembered as the last time shots were fired across the disputed border.

Doklam standoff of 2017:


The 72-day standoff began in June 2017, when the Indian army sent troops to stop China constructing a road in Bhutan’s Doklam region. The Doklam region is strategically important to China as it gives the country access to the Siliguri Corridor also called Chicken’s Neck which is a thin strip of land connecting mainland India with the Northeastern states.

This region is claimed by both China and Bhutan, an ally of India. After weeks of diplomatic talks, the conflict was finally resolved. And on 28 August 2017, both India and China announced that they had withdrawn all their troops from the face-off site in Doklam.

Thus, it can be concluded that India and China have been in border conflicts for decades and the Galwan Valley confrontation has significantly escalated the already volatile border dispute between the two countries.


About the author: Shauvik Sarmah is working as a content writer in Headline8. He is an Electronics & communication engineer who graduated from Panjab University.

Image Source: Internet


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A multimedia journalist based out of Guwahati, covering public policy, healthcare, and social issues.


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