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Will the border conflict between India and China escalate to a deadly clash involving gunfire or explosives before 2021?

The border between India and China has been disputed since at least the 1962 Sino-Indian war. Despite the ceasefire declared by China ending the war the same year and diplomatic efforts to define a border, it seems that the issue is still not settled to both sides’ satisfaction. Over the years, tensions have continued to persist resulting in incidents such as clashes in 1967 and a military standoff in 2017.

This year, tensions have once again flared. Beginning in early May, clashes along the border between Chinese and Indian military forces resulted in some injuries, but no deaths. This changed on the night of June 15th when a deadly brawl broke out in the Galwan Valley near China’s eastern border with India. Each side disagrees about what exactly transpired, but Indian officials report that 20 of their soldiers died, some during the clash and some later after succumbing to their injuries. China has not reported how many of their soldiers died.

One unusual aspect of these clashes is that, so far, no shots have been fired and all deaths and injuries have been the result of fisticuffs, clubs (sometimes embellished with nails and barbed wire), stone-pelting, and falls from cliffs. While India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has confirmed that all border troops carry arms, a 1996 agreement between India and China states that:

With a view to preventing dangerous military activities along the line of actual control in the India-China border areas… Neither side shall open fire, cause bio-degradation, use hazardous chemicals, conduct blast operations or hunt with guns or explosives within two kilometres from the line of actual control.

This question asks if the violence will escalate beyond clubs and fists to guns or explosives. It resolves positively if all of the following criteria are met:

  • There is a conflict between Indian and Chinese military forces where guns or explosives are used within 100 miles of the border. A gun is used if it is fired. An explosive is used if it is detonated. Guns do not include weapons that are designed to be less than lethal such as tasers, rubber bullet guns, or bean bag guns. Similarly, explosives do not include weapons that are designed to be less than lethal such as flash bangs.
  • There is at least one death as a result of the clash. The death need not be caused by the explosive or gunfire.
  • In areas where the border between China and India is disputed, two lines will be used. In the west, China’s 1962 claim line will be used. In the east, the McMahon line will be used. These lines are drawn in Google Maps, and Google Maps will be used for measurements. The red lines on these images disambiguate the border lines in areas where it is disputed.
  • The conflict must occur on or before 2020-12-31 UTC.


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