Sources recently surfaced reporting that a catastrophic military confrontation between China and India was barely avoided last year if not for the United States “unprecedented” intelligence-sharing.

Saved by the US Bell

According to US News, the Indian forces repelled a military incursion against China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers in the disputed border territory in the high Himalayas in 2022, thanks to the information sharing done by the US military.

Through US real-time intel-sharing, Indian forces had been notified that PLA troops attempted to occupy a part of the disputed border in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang region in early December. Consequently, India mobilized its armed forces into the area and established a blockade to prevent hundreds of PLA soldiers from entering.

The information the US provided included comprehensive, actionable satellite imagery, and while a skirmish eventually occurred on December 9, it was not as lethal as it should have been.

They were waiting. And that’s because the US had given India everything to be fully prepared for this,” the anonymous source told US News. “It demonstrates a test case of success of how the two militaries are now cooperating and sharing intelligence.”

US intelligence has been monitoring the activities in the disputed borders for weeks and had detected PLA’s plans to conduct a “testing exercise” in the region to try and see “if it could seize a new foothold in the remote mountain passes there or in other territories to which both China and India lay claim.”

“The PLA is generally in a probing-and-testing phase. They want to know how the Indians can and will respond and to see what the Indians can detect,” says Vikram Singh, a former top official for regional issues at the Pentagon, now with the United States Institute of Peace think tank. “It’s about China preparing for future conflict.” | via US News

Besides the unnamed source cited by the outlet, several current and former analysts and officials have vouched for the reported details regarding the unprecedented info-sharing. Likewise, it highlights the strengthening partnership between the US and India and their shared objective to push backland-grabbing” China from its expansionism, particularly in Asia.

Meanwhile, the White House did not deny nor confirm this news story. National Security Council coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told the media earlier this week, “No, I can’t confirm that.”

During the December 9 clash, dozens of troops from both sides equipped with spiked clubs and tasers were reportedly injured following the face-off—no serious casualties, unlike previous skirmishes such as the 2020 confrontation.

News reports following the scuffle said that PLA had accused Indian troops of illegally crossing the line to block a routine patrol of Chinese border guards.

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China-India’s “Line of Actual Control”

The Sino-India border dispute, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), has been ongoing since the early 1960s, escalating into a month-long conflict in 1962 when Chinese soldiers began an offensive on Indian border posts in Ladakh in the west and crossed the McMahon line in the east. Another skirmish took place in the 3,800 km (2,360 miles) frontier sometime in 1967 in the region of Sikkim, and three separate more happened in 1987, 2013, and 2017, which were successfully de-escalated before anything went out of control. The most deadly clash, however, occurred in June 2020, claiming the lives of 20 Indian troops and four Chinese soldiers during a hand-to-hand scuffle in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley.

China-India Disputed Border Map
China-India Disputed Border Map (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Following this, India arranged an agreement with the US government on an intelligence-sharing known as the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement on Geospatial Cooperation (BECA), including military coordination, logistics, compatibility, and perhaps the most significant security information exchanges.

BECA is one of the four foundational agreements India and the US signed, enabling New Delhi to access real-time geographical coordinates. Other deals made include the General Security of Military Information Agreement (2002), the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (2016), and the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (2018).

Despite having noticed China’s suspicious activities in the disputed borders, it remains unclear to US officials as to why the PLA chose the Arunachal Pradesh region. Except that Beijing was utterly pissed and “appears to have forced the Chinese Communist Party to reconsider its approach to land grabs along its borders,” US News reported, citing its source.

Spiked Bats as Weapons

The footage below began circulating online following the December 9, 2022, border clash between China and India. However, this has been unverified, as the clip was reportedly used in a previously unreported fistfight in September 2021. Nonetheless, it gives us an overview of the budding tension between the neighboring Asian superpowers.

The “spiked bat” confrontation last December was the latest since 2020 and had further the cracks between the two Asian giants.

Nonetheless, the situation has quickly de-escalated following the scuffle with China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, who reassured in a news conference the matter at the border was “generally stable.”

When asked for further details, Wenbin refused to indulge, saying they “do not have information on this issue for now.”