The westernmost points of India

According to the Wikipedia article on “Extreme Points of India”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_extreme_points_of_India

the westernmost point of India is Guhar Moti in Lakhpat taluk of Kutch district of Gujarat. This article mentions that it is at 23.71307 N, 68.03215 E. This appears to be wrong as it gives a point in the sea. However, the village of Guhar Moti is actually at 23.6076 N, 68.5022 E

which you can see here: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Guhar+Moti,+Gujarat+370601,+India/@23.6201256,68.5272452,14z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x395238a1259c106f:0x66b28d5fd5388930?hl=en

More about this place can be seen here and in line 55 of this

We note that the population of 242 (in the last census) includes 186 belonging to the scheduled castes, 55 to the scheduled tribes and 1 in the general category. In line 56, we see the nearby pilgrimage centre of Narayan Sarovar with a population of 1156. This is larger than the taluk HQ of Lakhpat which is described as a ghost town with a population of 500-odd. It did figure in the 2000 film “Refugee”, which marked the debut of Abhishek Bachchan and  Kareena Kapoor.

Some say that the temple at Koteshwar near Narayan Sarovar is the westernmost point of India, but you can see from the above link to Google maps that this is not true.

Remote as this area may be, it is well connected with roads. There was even a proposal to connect Koteshwar by rail to the nearest railhead at Naliya, but that may have to wait until the closed line from Bhuj to Naliya is converted from metre gauge to broad gauge. Naliya is also the site of India’s westernmost air force base, which hosts Mig-21 fighter aircraft. One of them shot down a Pakistani Navy aircraft near the border in 1999 (more about this below).

This part of Kutch district has a number of industries, mainly based on lignite (brown coal) which is mined nearby. The westernmost industrial unit in India may well be the Akrimota lignite power station on the coast, at 23.7721 N, 68.6442 E.

An overall view of the India-Pakistan border can be seen here

Note the complex border around the Sir Creek. The border is also disputed here, as India and Pakistan differ on the interpretation of a treaty signed between the government of Sind and the ruler of Kutch in 1914. The basic issue here is connected with borders formed by rivers-what happens when the river changes course? More details about the dispute and ongoing negotiations can be seen here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Creek

Also read this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantique_incident

Some literature mentions that the lights of Karachi can be seen from Koteshwar. This may not be true as the distance from here to the centre of Karachi is 200 km.

The border here consists of uninhabited marshlands, which are flooded during the monsoons. Patrolling by boats and aircraft is carried out by both countries. Also see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Rann_of_Kutch

The Kutch war of 1965 did not concern this area and was confined to the northern borders of Kutch.

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. (Update: This was true in 2016, but not now as the borders in all Google versions shows the same border as in Google.co.in).

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

A travelogue on Turtuk, which was opened to tourists some years ago:

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20190730-the-village-that-lost-its-country

 

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 very 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.