Indian officers have had a nervy long-distance standoff with the Sentinelese tribe who killed American an missionary, in their latest bid to recover his body.

Police said officers drove a boat to North Sentinel Island on the weekend, spotting Sentinelese men at the location John Allen Chau was last seen.

Police boats pulled up around 400m away from the island, using binoculars to catch a closer look at the men who were reportedly armed with bows and arrows.

"They stared at us and we were looking at them," the region's police chief Dependra Pathak told AFP. The boat withdrew to avoid any chance of a confrontation.

Advertisement
Rare footage shows isolated Sentinelese Tribe reacting to outsiders. Photo / Survival International
Rare footage shows isolated Sentinelese Tribe reacting to outsiders. Photo / Survival International

Despite members of the tribe killing Chau, they will not be prosecuted for his death because contact with the "lost civilisation" tribe is forbidden.

Chau's death has highlighted efforts to protect one of the world's last "uncontacted" tribes whose language and customs are unique only to their estimated 50-150 people tribe.

Fishermen who took Chau to the island said they saw the tribe burying Chau's body on the beach.

The Sentinelese are one of the world's last
The Sentinelese are one of the world's last "uncontacted" tribes whose language and customs remain a mystery to outsiders. Photo / Supplied

It is clear the remote tribe do not like visitors. An attempt by the Indian Government to formally contact the Sentinelese tribe in 1996 was rebuffed. Ever since then they shoot arrows at any boat that comes too close to their shores.

In 2006, members of the tribe killed two poachers who had been illegally fishing in the waters surrounding their home island after their boat drifted ashore, according to London-based watchdog group Survival International.

The remote North Sentinel islanders who killed 27-year-old John Chau. Photo / Supplied
The remote North Sentinel islanders who killed 27-year-old John Chau. Photo / Supplied

"Contact must never be imposed on tribes who don't want it," the group said on Friday. "Their neighbours, the Jarawa, have been treated like safari animals by tourists for years."

"We are studying the 2006 case. We are asking anthropologists what they do when they kill an outsider," the police chief added.

"We are trying to understand the group psychology."

Advertisement
Though Chau's death is officially a murder case, anthropologists say it may be impossible to retrieve his body and that no charges will be made against the protected tribe. Photo / Supplied
Though Chau's death is officially a murder case, anthropologists say it may be impossible to retrieve his body and that no charges will be made against the protected tribe. Photo / Supplied

Out of respect for the tribe's clear wishes to be left alone, the Indian Government has made it illegal to sail within five kilometres of the island and strongly protect them.

Although Chau's death is a murder case, experts say it may be impossible to recover the body and no charges would be laid against the tribe.

Seven people, including six fishermen who were involved in ferrying Chau to North Sentinel, have been arrested.