More on India-China border disputes

There are many maps showing areas disputed between India and its neighbors. This is perhaps the most comprehensive. It appeared in the “Economist” some years ago.

https://qph.ec.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-75d186666dba61850c45d3234cf04ae1

Though you may find this more convenient:

India disputed borders

Note that nothing much had happened in the past in the “central” portion, where China borders Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Now Chinese troops have started intruding there as well-apart from the better-known Barahoti in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, there are also reports from Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh.

This map of Himachal Pradesh shows the districts:

Himachal districts

We can see that Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti districts share borders with China.

Now see this map of Kinnaur district:

Kinnaur district

Incursions have been reported in the vicinity of Sumdo.

Here is a Google Maps extract showing the border post of Kaurik:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Kinnaur,+Himachal+Pradesh/@31.9372429,78.4363845,11z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x390643bef5f84a51:0xddfea72b01d3f354!8m2!3d31.6509576!4d78.4751945

Unlike in the case of most of our northern borders, roads seem to exist to within a few km of the border here.

A longer list of disputed areas can be seen here:

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

If you are really into maps, you can amuse yourself by accessing Google Maps from google.co.in and other sites such as google.com. The latter will show a lot of “disputed” sections which do not appear in the former. Try it especially on the Uttarakhand and Himachal borders, besides the better-known disputed territories in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh.

Advertisements

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

 

More from the “border from hell”-Hili (updated in May 2017)

If you are reading this, you probably have read about the weird border between India and Bangladesh in the Cooch Behar/Rangpur region. If not, you might as well read it now:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/india-and-bangladesh-the-border-from-hell/

But there are plenty of other strange things on the borders of these countries. Many of them arise from the Radcliffe line of partition.

For the basics, read the first few paragraphs of this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radcliffe_Line

Or this: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/03/peacocks-at-sunset/?_r=0

The writer of the latter piece is quite knowledgeable though he fails to mention that Sylhet district of Assam was also partitioned.

Today I will deal with one specific oddity which is on the border between West Bengal and Bangladesh.

The actual reports produced by the Radcliffe Commission total only about 7 pages, dealing with the partition of Punjab, Bengal and Sylhet district of Assam. Strangely enough these documents do not seem to be easily available anywhere on the net, though they are readily available in various publications. The following extract is from p.21 of “Committees & Commissions in India, 1947-54″ compiled by Virendra Kumar (Concept Publishing, Delhi, 1976)

” The line shall run…….and will terminate at the point where the boundary between Phulbari and Balurghat meets the north-south line of the Bengal & Assam Railway in the eastern corner of the Thana of Balurghat. The line shall turn down the western edge of the railway lands and follow that edge until it meets the boundary between the Thanas of Balurghat and Panchbibi”

What this means is the boundary line (which was basically intended to segregate Hindu-majority and Muslim-majority areas) needed some special adjustments to avoid disruption to communication links. This was not the only place this happened. In this particular case the north-south railway line (which was then on the route of the prestigious Darjeeling Mail) remained a major connection between the north-western part of East Pakistan and the rest of the country, and so it should not be disturbed and the Pakistani trains should be able to run without hindrance.

The map of Hili railway station and surroundings:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/@25.2788172,89.0098371,16z

You could expand it further if needed. What should be apparent is that the town of Hili lies on both sides of the border, and that the railway embankment itself is the border. The border itself seems to cut through the station premises.

Here are a few pictures from this area:

Border marker near the railway line:

Hili area 1

The black cow is closer to the Indian border than the white cow. Perhaps they come and go across the border. Probably the black cow has realized that her life expectancy will be more in India than in Bangladesh.

An Indian truck waiting to cross the border (which is the railway line itself):

Hili area 2

Note the BG/MG dual gauge track.

A couple of pictures from Hili station itself. The second one shows some semblance of security with the BGB (the equivalent of the BSF):

(As in many smaller stations in Bangladesh, the signboards may be only in Bengali).

To get a better idea of the ground situation, here is a segment of a documentary by CNN-IBN which apparently dates to 2007. It should be self-explanatory:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ntOdCQuZoc

As you can see, at that time no one seemed to bother if you crossed the border in either direction. Probably things are a little tighter now, though the great wall of barbed wire probably has a break here.

Here is a video of Bangladeshi trains passing Hili station, taken from the Indian side: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-xek8UeS0E

Here you can see the “Welcome to Bangladesh” sign right next to the railway line.

A Bangladeshi video showing BGB officers visiting Hili station. You can see the border markers in the station premises:

Finally, a better view from the Bangladesh side. This is a video shot by a Bangladeshi visitor to the border areas (in Bengali with English subtitles).

Not sure if you would find the entire video interesting, but 1.20 to 2.45 pertains to Hili with coverage of the station and the border.

 

 

 

 

 

India and Bangladesh-the border from hell.

UPDATE: This article describes the situation as it was in May 2015 before the transfer of territories took place.

First have a look at this news report stating that India’s parliament has finally passed legislation regarding the ratification of the land boundary with Bangladesh: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/rajya-sabha-passes-bill-to-ratify-lba-with-bangladesh/article7177102.ece

So you are wondering what the fuss is about, and why it could not be resolved since 1947. First let us revise some basic geography. As usual, Wikipedia is a good starting point: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enclave_and_exclave

So you now know the difference between an enclave and an exclave, and that there are Indian exclaves in Bangladesh and Bangladeshi exclaves in India. The Bangladeshis would refer to the first type as enclaves in their country while the Indians would refer to the second type as enclaves in their country. These are also called first-order enclaves/exclaves.

So far so good. Then there is the counter-enclave or enclave within an enclave (or exclave within an exclave if you prefer). There are quite a few of these, namely an Indian exclave in Bangladesh which includes a Bangladeshi exclave totally surrounded by the aforementioned Indian exclave. Similarly you would have a Bangladeshi exclave in India which includes an Indian exclave fully surrounded by the aforementioned Bangladeshi exclave. These are known as second-order enclaves/exclaves.

Is your head starting to spin? Finally, we end with the counter-counter enclave or third-order enclave which does have one example. You might as well look at this on the map: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-Bangladesh_enclaves#/media/File:Dahala_Khagrabari.png 

Cooch Behar has sometimes been the butt of jokes, with Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children” having a minor character named the Maharani of Cooch Naheen (i.e. “The Queen of Nothing”). An old map showing the messy border of Cooch Behar can be seen here.

It can be enlarged: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-Bangladesh_enclaves#/media/File:Coochbehar.jpg

For an overall view, you could look at this segment from Google maps. Start from the quaintly named village of Phansidewa (“gallows”) and try tracing the border eastward through Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and finally Dhubri district: https://www.google.co.in/maps/@26.4979994,88.6693472,11z

(However, as of 2017 Google Maps shows the border as it is today and does not show the enclaves.)

A good overall summary is here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-Bangladesh_enclaves Note the apparently true story about the rulers of Cooch Behar and Rangpur exchanging villages as gambling stakes (though they really should have used something like poker chips). The article gives a full list of enclaves (though the actual documents run into hundreds of pages).

Life in these exclaves can be harsh. You would generally live in close proximity to trigger-happy border guards and barbed wire, while your “parent” country would not be able to ensure any services to your territory as you can see here: http://archive.thedailystar.net/2004/06/17/d40617070171.htm

This weird border has attracted the attention of trivia-hunters and serious scholars from around the world. Apart from various magazine articles referenced in the Wikipedia article, you can even download a doctoral thesis (over 500 pages long) with the quaint title of “Waiting for the esquimo”: “Waiting for the esquimo: An historical and documentary study of the Cooch Behar enclaves of India and Bangladesh”

Tail piece: My old friend Milan Chatterjee wondered if any railway line on the Indian side of the border crossed any Bangladeshi exclave. A closer look at the route from Cooch Behar to Gitaldaha and Bamanhat revealed that this was not the case, but that the abandoned line from Bamanhat to the border did momentarily cross three of these enclaves: https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Cooch+Behar,+West+Bengal/@26.0731929,89.5882181,14z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x39e2fc1ce181e4bd:0xe7787e092217f629 These stretches would total about 700 M (estimated by eye).

It is also understood that the old Gitaldaha Junction was relocated to a new location further from the border, and this was naturally known as New Gitaldaha Junction. It is still possible to visit the “old” Gitaldaha junction where a now-defunct bridge crossed the river into East Pakistan/Bangladesh.

However, on the Bangladeshi side of the border the line from Burimari (on the border) to Lalmonirhat does pass through a few hundred metres of two Indian exclaves. It is not known if there is any particular problem with train operations here: https://www.google.co.in/maps/@26.3082452,89.0624778,14z

Finally, here is a 28-minute video by an Indian TV channel showing various aspects of life in the enclaves (Mainly English, some Hindi and Bengali): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7hijHa0DYQ