Footage which claims to show Indian troops beating a captured Chinese soldier has been condemned by Delhi amid an escalating dispute at the Himalayan border.
Believed to have been filmed around two weeks ago on the banks of Pangong Lake, a mile into Indian territory, the footage purports to show Indian forces battering a People’s Liberation Army soldier and smashing up a Chinese armoured car.
The Indian Army warned local media that circulating the ‘mala fide’ (dishonest) footage was ‘likely to vitiate (damage) the current situation on the borders.’
Believed to have been filmed around two weeks ago on the banks of Pangong Lake, a mile into Indian territory, the footage purports to show Indian forces battering a People’s Liberation Army soldier and smashing up a Chinese armoured car
The two countries fought a frontier war along the 2,175 mile border in 1962 and there have been regular spats, though no shot has been fired since the 1970s (the red territory is controlled by India, and the beige and grey stripes, Aksai Chin, is Chinese but claimed by India)
The latest tensions blew up on May 9 when dozens of Chinese and Indian soldiers were injured in fistfights and stone-throwing in Sikkim state. Many Indian soldiers are still in hospital.
The 1962 Sino-Indian War
Aksai Chin is located either in the Indian state of Ladakh or the Chinese region of Xinjiang.
It is an almost uninhabited high-altitude scrub land traversed by the Xinjiang-Tibet Highway.
The other disputed territory is hundreds of miles away to the east of Tibet.
The 1962 Sino-Indian War was fought on these two frontiers as Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru put it, a struggle over land where ‘not even a blade of grass grows.’
Chinese motivations for the war centred on percieved efforts by India to subvert Beijing’s interests in Tibet.
Just a few years before the war, the Indians had granted asylum to the Dalai Lama after the 1959 Tibetan uprising.
According to the CIA at the time, the Chinese ‘were motivated to attack by one primary consideration – their determination to retain the ground on which PLA forces stood in 1962 and to punish the Indians for trying to take that ground.’
Indian motivations included, testing Chinese resolve, testing who the Soviets would back and to garner sympathy from the United States.
The main showdown is now in Ladakh centred around the Galwan valley which controls access to several strategic points on their Himalayan border.
India’s army chief General Manoj Naravane downplayed the ‘temporary and short-duration face-offs.’
A week after making those remarks in mid-May, the general flew north to visit the 14th Corps HQ in Leh, Ladakh’s capital, The Economist reported, suggesting something more serious was afoot.
The two sides have blamed each other but analysts say India’s building of new roads in the region may have been the fuse for the dispute. Both sides have dispatched reinforcements and heavy equipment to the zone.
The recent video from Pangong Lake is undated but purports to show Indian forces, perhaps Indo-Tibetan security forces, attacking a Chinese PLA soldier.
Wherever this video has been circulated on Twitter, there are Chinese accounts which have hit back with a photo which purports to show bloodied and unconscious Indian soldiers bound with rope.
Their captors, who wear the Chinese PLA uniforms with golden stars on their caps, are also seen in surgical masks, suggesting it was taken during the pandemic.
The Indian press have claimed that Chinese troops have pushed several miles into Indian territory, smashing up Indian outposts and bridges, and digging in with their tents and trenches.
In Ladakh, flash points reported in May include at the confluence of the Galwan and Shyok rivers, the Hot Springs region and Pangong Lake.
In the Galwan Valley soldiers have been locked in a weeks-long face-off. India’s foreign ministry spokesman said in May: ‘It is Chinese side that has recently undertaken activity hindering India’s normal patrolling patterns.’
Wherever this video has been circulated on Twitter, there are Chinese accounts which have hit back with a photo which purports to show bloodied and unconscious Indian soldiers bound with rope. Their captors, who wear the Chinese PLA uniforms with golden stars on their caps, are also seen in surgical masks, suggesting it was taken during the pandemic
It is unclear how many troops the Chinese have in the region, former army colonel Ajai Shukla believes there to be several PLA brigades, which means thousands of men.
The bulk of these troops are likely positioned at the rear behind those leading the incursions into Indian territory.
The intrusions have been ‘fast in-and-out’ forays, according to The Print, with around 40 to 60 Chinese men deployed.
The Indian newspaper carried out an investigation of the videos circulating on social media and compared them to satellite images of the Indian bases.
The beating meted out to the alleged PLA soldier happened just over a mile inside Indian territory and was not far from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) camp.
The investigation claims that the incident took place around May 19-21 and that there was considerable ‘beefing up’ of the ITBP base shortly after.
The vehicle which is attacked by the Indian forces is a Dongfeng CSK131, a Chinese version of the US Humvee, which is used for high-speed reconnaissance and would match the strategies they have allegedly employed.
The Print reports that satellite imagery reveals the only time Chinese vessels came close to the border in the last 14 days was to travel to Fox Point (the peninsula which juts into Pangong Lake in this satellite image). The territory to the east of the peninsula is Chinese, to the west, Indian
In the second image, which has been used as a counter-attack by Twitter accounts loyal to Beijing, badly beaten Indian forces are seen tied up by the Chinese. A boat can be seen in the background.
The Print reports that satellite imagery reveals the only time Chinese vessels came close to the border in the last 14 days was to travel to Fox Point on May 22.
The Indian incursion into the Chinese side is believed to be around 700ft, much less of an intrusion than that by PLA soldier days before who was beaten up outside his Humvee.
Although General Naravane is perhaps justified in dismissing the skirmishes as not unusual, several of the forays are in areas west of the Galwan Valley that China was not thought to have previously claimed.
On May 25 the Chinese state-controlled Global Times said Indian troops had been trespassing on Chinese territory and wrote: ‘The Galwan Valley region is Chinese territory.’
The Galwan Valley was formally handed back to the Indians after the war of 1962.
Build up at the Line of Actual Control on the disputed border between China and India is seen in this handout satellite image of Pangong Lake
Recently build buildings and roads surround Pangong Lake close to the Line of Actual Control
The Global Times report claimed that Indian troops were trying to erect illegal defence facilities since the beginning of May and that China had border controls in response to Indian provocations in the Galwan Valley.
One reason for the heightened tension could be a new road built to Daulat Beg Oldi, the world’s highest airstrip and the site of an intense Sino-Indian dispute in 2013.
The road allows for the rapid and vast movement of Indian troops into the region.
Writing in the Indian Express last week, former Indian diplomat, Phunchok Stobdan, wrote: ‘The situation remains tense at Sirijap’s cliff spurs and also at the Tso, where troops are chasing each other in high-speed patrol boats.
‘Clearly, intrusions are part of China’s never-ending effort to push Indian troops westward of the Indus and Shyok rivers and reach the 1960 claimed line.’
Build up at the Line of Actual Control on the disputed border between China and India is seen in this satellite image
China has not commented directly on the heightened tensions along the mountain border, but it noted that its troops have consistently maintained peace and tranquillity in the area.
India’s defence ministry on Sunday warned the public about fake social media videos showing fighting on the border.
‘Currently no violence is happening. Differences are being addressed through interaction between military commanders,’ a ministry statement insisted.
The US president this week tweeted an offer to mediate in what he called a ‘raging’ dispute.
efence Minister Rajnath Singh said he spoke to US Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday to emphasise that India and China have mechanisms to resolve ‘problems’ through talks at diplomatic and military levels.