US intelligence helped prevent China incursion into India, says report

Key intelligence obtained by the US and shared with India enabled the country to fend off a potential Chinese military incursion in the Himalayas last year, according to a new report.

Washington reportedly shared real-time intelligence details with New Delhi in a first for the two countries’ security partnership, and this information helped prevent an ongoing standoff between the Asian giants in December last year from escalating into a more serious conflict.

The US informed Indian officials of the latest Chinese positions and a build up in force by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), reported US News on Monday, citing anonymous officials aware of the details of the border conflict.

India was provided with actionable satellite imagery before the clash, which was more detailed and delivered more quickly than other similar intelligence updates shared by the US in the past, according to the report.

In the event, more than 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers came face-to-face at the country’s border, leading to a significant rise in tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours who have frequently sparred at their border.

Much of the border between India and China is disputed by both countries, with the entire northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh claimed by Beijing as part of its territory.

The Indian army, confirming the December incident in a delayed statement, had said that the Chinese soldiers outnumbered their Indian counterparts by four to one and were armed with crude weapons, including spiked clubs, monkey fists and stun guns when they attacked Indian units in the tense Yangtse area of Arunachal Pradesh state’s Tawang sector.

At least 50 Indian troops were swiftly mobilised in the dead of the night to respond to an incursion of 200 Chinese soldiers, with sources telling Indian media at the time that the clash was “more than pushing and shoving”.

The information sharing between the US and India caught the PLA off guard and angered China, forcing it to rethink its approach to occupy land along the border, the US News report claims.

Both sides suffered injuries during the incident, the Indian army said, but this was in stark difference to the more serious clash between the rivals in 2020 in the northern Ladakh region, that resulted in dozens of deaths and plummeted Indo-China relations to new lows.

According to the source, the US had “given India everything to be fully prepared for this”, adding that the country’s troops were waiting for the PLA.

“It demonstrates a test case of the success of how the two militaries are now cooperating and sharing intelligence,” a source told US News.

The news website said several currently serving officials and former analysts attested to the details of the violent encounter, along with the US’s role in preventing the clash from escalating.

Analysts monitoring the proximity between Delhi and Washington have praised the unprecedented departure in the way the US shared information with its Asian ally.

“Washington routinely proves its worth to New Delhi,” said Derek J Grossman, national security and Indo-Pacific analyst at global policy think tank Rand Corporation, and cited the report.

The White House did not confirm or deny the details contained in the new report.

John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, refused to comment on the report of Washington’s unprecedented assistance to Delhi.

“No, I can’t confirm that,” he said, after being asked to confirm the intelligence sharing with the Indian military and whether there will be more such sharing with India in future.