The northernmost points of India (Revised June 2017)

 

There are some countries like Britain whose extreme points are well documented. The little towns of Land’s End and John O’Groats are well-known tourist spots.

In many countries one or more borders and extreme points are in remote areas-particularly so in India’s northern and eastern borders. There is a difference between:

  1. What the Indian government says its borders are
  2. What area is actually controlled by the Indian government
  3. What area is disputed by other countries (though this is really of no concern to the Indian public, one has to see maps published from other countries which show a large area as disputed).

One can also look up the definitions of “de jure” and “de facto” if one wants to be further confused.

Anyway, this Wikipedia article claims to mention all the extreme points of India. For today we deal with the northernmost points, and we will return to the other points later.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_extreme_points_of_India

We start with a typical map of Jammu and Kashmir from a school atlas:

If one was to take this seriously, the international borders shown here are the true borders of the India since Independence.

J and K 001

A point of interest is the thin sliver of Afghanistan (known as the Wakhan corridor) bordering India’s territory. Crossing this you enter Tajikstan, formerly part of the USSR.

But what is actually controlled by India? This map from Wikipedia sums it up:

764px-JammuKashmir.svg

Note the green area which has been controlled by Pakistan since shortly after independence, although minor changes have occurred in the 1965 and 1971 wars.

Then there is the Aksai Chin (in beige, like the rest of China and Tibet) which was taken over by China some time in the mid-1950s, without the Indian government or armed forces knowing about it. Also note that a portion of  south-eastern Ladakh is held by India and is marked as disputed.

The Siachen glacier (in white) was not permanently occupied by any government until the Indian armed forces occupied positions there in 1984.

Then there is the Shaksgam valley which is supposed to be in India, and was occupied by Pakistan and later transferred to China.

So you can see that the northern-most point actually occupied by India’s forces would be somewhere near the northern end of Siachen, on the border with Xinjiang province of China.

Now we look back to the Wikpedia article referenced earlier: If you click on the co-ordinates you will end up with a map showing the location. But it may take less time if you first open Google maps or Wikimapia etc and enter the coordinates yourself.

The borders will be shown differently if you are using google.co.in  or, say,   google.com .

 

Heading Location Administrative entity Bordering entity Coordinates[nb 1] Ref
North
(disput-ed, govern–ed
Near Indira Col, Siachen Glacier Indian-administered Kashmir Xinjiang, China 35.674520°N 76.845245°E [3]
North
(disput–ed, claimed)
Dafdar in the Taghdumbash Pamir near Beyik Pass Xinjiang, China Wakhan Corridor, Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan 37°24′00″N 75°24′00″E [4]
North
(undis- -puted)
Near Dharwas, Chamba district Himachal Pradesh Indian-administered Kashmir 33.24902°N 76.82704°E [5]

 

The first point shows what may be the northernmost Indian military post at Indira Col in the Siachen, with latitude approximately 35.6745 N.

The second shows a place some distance along the Karakoram highway near Tashkargan, the first town in Xinjiang.

And the third shows the northernmost point of Himachal Pradesh (since the whole of J & K is disputed 🙂 )

This is all rather messy, so you may prefer the map referenced here:

GyongLaNJ9842

which shows the location of Indira Col with reference to the Line of Control.

This article explains the significance of NJ 9842 and the line heading northeast from it:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siachen_Glacier

There are a few helipads in the glacier area. One of them, at Point Sonam, has been listed as the world’s highest helipad at 21,000 ft. It is referenced here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helipad

Apart from the location above, there is a built-up area at Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) airstrip:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daulat_Beg_Oldi 

which is at 35.390 N . Note the comment:

“Other than Siachen Glacier military bases, it is India’s northernmost built-up area.” There is a nearby small town of Murgo, (35.0411 N) which is not yet connected by motorable road to Leh although some roads exist around DBO.

And DBO is listed as the world’s highest airstrip at 16,600 ft. It was first operated with Packet aircraft in 1962, and now handles AN-32s and C-130Js. References are given in the Wikipedia article.

The northernmost town which can be visited by the Indian public is now Warshi:

http://vargiskhan.com/log/warshi-village-nubra-valley-opened-travelers/nubra-valley-opened-till-warshi-village/

Also see this map for the roads here:

http://vargiskhan.com/log/warshi-village-nubra-valley-opened-travelers/leh-to-nubra-valley-map-with-distances-2/

Warshi’s latitude is 35.0629 N, while the previous northernmost accessible place was Turtuk with 34.8474 N. Turtuk was under Pakistan’s control until 1971.

Fortunately the extreme points in the west, east and south are not so confusing. We visit them next.

Footnote: here is another map of disputed territories, which seems to have appeared in “The Economist” at some point. We will meet it again when we come to the eastern extreme points.

Disputed areas

You may also like this one about disputed territory on the Uttarakhand border:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/07/29/where-is-barahoti/

Tail piece: Indian journalists routinely mis-spell the McMahon line as the MacMohan line, thinking of the second-rung villain of Bollywood:

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/gallery/actor-mac-mohans-life-in-pics/1/3163.html

 

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The extreme points of India

We hear the phrase “From Kashmir to Kanyakumari” or the next-door version “from Khyber to Karachi”. In Britain there is “From Land’s End to John O’Groats” which are supposed to be the extreme southwest and extreme northeast points of the British mainland. In contrast, the US gets by with “From sea to shining sea” in one of their patriotic songs.

Ever wondered about the extreme points of India? One may think that the question is answered in the Wikipedia article linked below. Actually it is not as simple as that as there are several different ways of deciding where India ends in the north. (Do you mean what the official atlas says, or the point actually under Indian military control? And since many countries think that Kashmir is a disputed territory, then what should be the “undisputed”northernmost point?)

Even the eastern border is disputed by China although it is firmly in Indian control. The western extreme is a point in the sea off the Gujarat-Sind border. And the southernmost point is not Kanyakumari on the mainland but a remote settlement on an island in the Nicobars, with a population of 27.

We shall be visiting these places over the next few blogposts. We also look at the nearest inhabited places (which are hard to find unless you are at Kanyakumari).

Read this first: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_extreme_points_of_India

Life on the border-Munabao (1)

The Samjhauta Express gets all the news coverage, but its little known cousin the Thar Express remains away from the limelight. A look at its history.

While most of the railways in Pakistan came under the North Western Railway headquartered at Lahore, the metre gauge lines in Sind were run by the Jodhpur state railway. This is what the network looked like in 1933. Some smaller branches were not completed by then.Jodhpur Railway in 1933

This being 1933, there is only a little dashed line indicating the boundary between the British-ruled province of Sind and the state of Jodhpur. At around that time there was a mail train between Jodhpur and Hyderabad on the metre gauge, possibly with coaches from Ahmedabad which would have joined at Luni. Here you can see the “trans-border” timetable of the Jodhpur Railway in 1943, which was not too different from what it was in the 1930s:

Jodhpur1-1943

The rest of the Jodhpur Railway in 1943 is here:

Jodhpur2-1943

So we see the mail trains between Luni and Hyderabad Sind running without a stop at Munabao, although Gadra Road and Khokhropar seem to have been more important stations.

It would have been possible to travel by train from Bombay to Karachi by a roundabout rail route via Ahmedabad, but this would (at the bare minimum) have involved changes of train at Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. Probably ships were more convenient.

Came 1947 and the Jodhpur railway authorities continued to run trains into West Pakistan for a few months. There seems to have been some cross-border services up to 1965 but details are lacking. Apparently the Pakistani forces did intrude across the border to Munabao (as they did at Khem Karan further north), besides shelling Gadra Road which is close to the border. This station was to serve Gadra town which was now on the other side. All cross-border train services between India and both wings of Pakistan ceased after this.

In 1971, the Indian army returned the compliment and advanced about 50 km into Pakistan, capturing Khokhropar and a few other stations beyond it. Documentary films of that time show Indian diesels (probably YDM-4s) running to Khokhropar. Incidentally Pakistan Railways generally neglected these MG lines and never got round to getting diesel locos there, though they seem to have shifted some of the more numerous steam locos from East Pakistan to run the limited services (much to the delight of foreign steam fans).

By 1976, the Samjhauta Express between Amritsar and Lahore got going. Now that was the only way (other than limited air services) for the ordinary passengers from India and Pakistan to cross the border. Anyone from western India who wanted to travel to southern Pakistan had to make a long detour up to Amritsar and Lahore.Gradually both countries got round to reopening this long-forgotten link.

To be continued.