The media is agog with reports of a clash between the Indian Army (IA) and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in the area of Yangtse in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh. This has created considerable ruckus in the Parliament also. Such Chinese activities when the Indian Parliament is in session are not new.

In the case, the clash happened on December 9, 2022 but the reports emerged in the media only on December 12 which is strange in this era of communications and connectivity, possibly because the report needed to be 'tempered'.

As a result, different versions of the incident have emerged in the media, such as:

The PLA wanted to uproot an IA post which was successfully thwarted by IA troops resolutely confronting the PLA. Minor injuries were reported on both sides. At least six injured IA soldiers were airlifted to 151 Base Hospital in Guwahati.

Citing IA sources, it was reported that around 200 PLA soldiers tried to transgress the LAC, but IA troops contested them in a firm and resolute manner. Minor injuries were suffered on both sides.

Citing government officials, a report stated IA troops were following routine pre-decided patrolling format when PLA troops initiated an argument leading to the clash. The clash lasted several hours and PLA troops suffered more injuries than IA troops.

It was reported that 200 PLA troops were trying to cross the LAC when 50 IA soldiers initially challenged them but within half an hour IA's backup troops arrived. Chinese were carrying spiked wooden clubs, taser guns and monkey fists, crude iron weapons worn on the wrist. Indian troops didn't have taser guns but had "everything and more than what the Chinese had". PLA suffered more injuries. At least 15 IA troops were injured including suffering fractures.

The above versions suggest the clash was triggered because of the PLA trying to uproot an IA post, IA patrols stopped from routine patrolling or PLA troops crossing the LAC stopped by our troops. A tweet by a prominent journalist, mentioning injuries and fractures, said nine IA and 22 PLA troops were injured. Where did the headcount come from?

According to another report, "before" the recent clash, Chinese drones had moved aggressively towards IA positions in Arunachal Pradesh forcing the IAF to scramble fighter aircraft.

The issue was reportedly resolved after a flag meeting by the local commanders. How amicable the discussion was and whether it would effectively stop recurrence of such incidents is highly debatable considering China's aggressive stance.

This is the first reported skirmish between the two sides since the Galwan clash in Ladakh in June 2020. Prior to the Galwan clash, videos in media showed troops from both sides jostling each other like at Doklam and Sikkim, or using sticks and hurling stones at each other like in Pangong Tso area.

But Galwan onwards recording and releasing videos was banned. This was because despite earlier physical clashes, the Ministry of External Affairs did nothing to change the orders for our patrols to be armed. China took advantage by a surprise attack on Colonel Suresh Babu's patrol, butchering them in cold blood. Mercifully, one soldier could run back and inform his unit.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar responding to a question later stated that Colonel Babu's patrol was indeed "armed". China has been flaunting videos taken by them of the Galwan clash, whereas we have not been able to show PLA prisoners taken by us at Galwan.

The video being shown purportedly of the December 9, 2022 clash is obviously an old one given that many face offs in Yangtse area have happened over the years. Patrols don't carry concertina coils as seen on the media and at 14,000 feet that area should be under snow. Besides, if Colonel Babu's patrol was armed as claimed by Jaishankar, why is our patrol in the video carrying sticks?

The video is perhaps being shown to earn political mileage, according to one source it is part of a full video released by China in 2021. However, it does highlight that the short-tenure PLA troops (Chinese version of 'Agniveers') are a poor match to regular IA troops.

Woefully, our government has made 'Agnipath' a prestige issue and refuses to rethink the concept; to draw political mileage from claiming that thousands after four-month recruit training and four-year stint in the military would become "skilled". A case of self-illusion.

Long Shaohua, spokesperson for China's Western Theatre Command said that the clash happened during a regular border patrol when Chinese troops "illegally crossing the border" were intercepted by Indian counterparts , and that our troops' response was professional, firm and standard, which helped to stabilise the situation.

HuXijin of the Global Times tweeted: "China won't back down on the border issue. India should fully understand China's stand and will after several clashes, and give up illusions. China is willing to escalate the situation, so China has released the information later than India again this time.'

Some of our Union Ministers are busy singing the clich├ęs of not giving up "even one inch of territory" and not permitting China to "unilaterally change the status quo of the LAC". Understandably converting sq kms into inches is difficult even for traders but then we have lost control of over 1,000 sq km of our territory in Ladakh since 2020. China has successfully moved the LAC westward and in addition, we vacated the Kailash Range in our own territory because of threats that China would have conveyed through politico-diplomatic channels.

The fear of China attacking has led the government to follow a policy of "appeasement" towards Beijing. This is apparent from the US$100 billion annual trade balance in China's favour compared to India's defence budget at US$70 billion.

Are we helping China to modernise the PLA even faster? Why are contracts being given to Chinese firms? Why the ISRO-OPPO deal? Why surveillance equipment in and around the North and South Block are Chinese. Europe is waking up to Chinese police stations in their countries but why don't we have data of China's indirect investments in Indian concerns and foreign concerns in India, refer to the recent statement of the Union Minister of Commerce in Parliament.

The clash at Tawang perhaps was to assess IA's reaction and capabilities to reinforce locations. Are we prepared to undertake similar actions to send a strong signal to China? Or will our policy makers consider it "too dangerous"? Let there be no illusions that China will escalate conflict in the near future. The brazen act of Chinese President Xi Jinping distributing maps showing Ladakh and Arunachal part of China and J&K part of Pakistan at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Uzbekistan in September 2022, which was also attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is indication enough.

The second major indication is China constructing a second highway (G695 national expressway) through Aksai Chin by 2035, which according to foreign media will be running close to Galwan, Hot Springs and Pangong Tso. China will definitely want to ensure depth for this highway much before it is completed.

Finally, Xi would be thrilled to note proceedings of our Parliament; that we remain disunited in the face of imminent threats. Additionally, it is OK to question Congress about its MoU with China but if the NSA, R&AW and IB cannot get a copy, what are they being paid for? Combating modern era conflicts requires application of total comprehensive power (CNP). Is there any thinking or move towards this or is the Military alone supposed to fight it out with Agniveers in the forefront?

Lt General Prakash Katoch is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed are personal.