Coordinates: 35°7′N 79°8′E / 35.117°N 79.133°E /
China border, showing Aksai Chin
Aksai Chin (Chinese: 阿克赛钦; pinyin: Ākèsài Qīn; Uyghur:
ﺋﺎﻗﺴﺎﻱ ﭼﯩﻦ) is a disputed border area between
China and India. It is administered by
China as part of Hotan County,
which lies in the southwestern part of
Hotan Prefecture of Xinjiang
Autonomous Region, but is also claimed by
India as a part of the
Ladakh region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1962,
India fought a brief war in
Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, but in
1993 and 1996, the two countries signed agreements to respect the Line
of Actual Control.
4.1 The Johnson Line
4.2 The Macartney–Macdonald Line
4.3 1899 to 1947
4.4 Since 1947
4.5 Trans Karakoram Tract
5 Strategic importance
6 Chinese terrain model
7 See also
10 External links
The etymology of
Aksai Chin is uncertain regarding the word "chin". As
a word of Turkic origin, aksai literally means "white brook" but
whether the word chin refers to Chinese or pass is disputed. The
Chinese name of the region, 阿克赛钦, is composed of Chinese
characters chosen for their phonetic values, irrespective of their
Tarim River Basin, 2008
Aksai Chin is one of the two large disputed border areas between India
Aksai Chin as the easternmost part of the
Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir state.
China claims that
Aksai Chin is part of the
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The line that separates
Indian-administered areas of
Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir from
Aksai Chin is
known as the
Line of Actual Control
Line of Actual Control (LAC) and is concurrent with the
Aksai Chin claim line.
Aksai Chin covers an area of about 37,244 square kilometres
(14,380 sq mi). The area is largely a vast high-altitude
desert with a low point (on the Karakash River) at about 4,300 m
(14,100 ft) above sea level. In the southwest, mountains up to
7,000 m (23,000 ft) extending southeast from the Depsang
Plains form the de facto border (Line of Actual Control) between Aksai
Chin and Indian-controlled Kashmir.
In the north, the Kunlun Range separates
Aksai Chin from the Tarim
Basin, where the rest of
Hotan County is situated. According to a
recent detailed Chinese map, no roads cross the Kunlun Range within
Hotan Prefecture, and only one track does so, over the Hindutash
Aksai Chin area has number of endorheic basins with many salt or soda
lakes. The major salt lakes are Surigh yil ganning kol, Tso tang,
Aksai Chin Lake, Hongshan hu, etc. Much of the northern part of Aksai
Chin is referred to as the Soda Plains, located near Aksai Chin's
largest river, the Karakash, which receives meltwater from a number of
glaciers, crosses the Kunlun farther northwest, in
Pishan County and
enters the Tarim Basin, where it serves as one of the main sources of
water for Karakax and Hotan Counties.
The western part of
Aksai Chin region is drained by the Tarim River.
The eastern part of the region contains several small endorheic
basins. The largest of them is that of the
Aksai Chin Lake, which is
fed by the river of the same name. The region as a whole receives
little precipitation as the
Himalayas and the Karakoram block the
rains from the Indian monsoon.
Besides officials from the Chinese military, the inhabitants of Aksai
Chin are, for the most part, members of nomadic groups such as the
Bakarwal who regularly pass through the area. The best known
settlements are the town of
Tianshuihai and the village of Tielongtan.
See also: Origins of the Sino-Indian border dispute
Because of its 5,000 metres (16,000 ft) elevation, the desolation
Aksai Chin meant that it had no human importance other than an as
ancient trade route, which provided a temporary pass during summer for
caravans of yaks between
Xinjiang and Tibet. For military
campaigns, the region held great importance, as it was on the only
Tarim Basin to
Tibet that was passable all year round. The
Dzungar Khanate used this route to enter
Tibet in 1717.
One of the earliest treaties regarding the boundaries in the western
sector was signed in 1842.
Ladakh was conquered a few years earlier by
the armies of Raja
Gulab Singh (Dogra) under the suzerainty of the
Sikh Empire. Following an unsuccessful campaign into
Tibet in 1840,
Gulab Singh and the Tibetans signed a treaty, agreeing to stick to the
"old, established frontiers", which were left unspecified. The
British defeat of the Sikhs in 1846 resulted in the transfer of the
Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir region including
Ladakh to the British, who then
Gulab Singh as the Maharaja under their suzerainty. British
commissioners contacted Chinese officials to negotiate the border, who
did not show any interest. The British boundary commissioners fixed
the southern end of the boundary at Pangong Lake, but regarded the
area north of it as terra incognita. 
The Johnson Line
Central Asia (1878) showing
Khotan (near top right corner). The
previous border claimed by the British Indian Empire is shown in the
two-toned purple and pink band with
Shahidulla and the Kilik, Kilian
and Sanju Passes clearly north of the border.
William Johnson, a civil servant with the Survey of
India proposed the
"Johnson Line" in 1865, which put
Aksai Chin in Kashmir. This was
the time of the Dungan revolt, when
China did not control most of
Xinjiang, so this line was never presented to the Chinese. Johnson
presented this line to the Maharaja of Kashmir, who then claimed the
18,000 square kilometres contained within, and by some accounts
territory further north as far as the
Sanju Pass in the Kun Lun
Mountains. Johnson's work was severely criticized for gross
inaccuracies, with description of his boundary as "patently
absurd". Johnson was reprimanded by the British Government and
resigned from the Survey. The Maharajah of Kashmir
constructed a fort at
Shahidulla (modern-day Xaidulla), and had troops
stationed there for some years to protect caravans. Eventually,
most sources placed
Shahidulla and the upper
Karakash River firmly
within the territory of
Xinjiang (see accompanying map). According to
Francis Younghusband, who explored the region in the late 1880s, there
was only an abandoned fort and not one inhabited house at Shahidulla
when he was there - it was just a convenient staging post and a
convenient headquarters for the nomadic Kirghiz. The abandoned
fort had apparently been built a few years earlier by the
Kashmiris. In 1878 the Chinese had reconquered Xinjiang, and by
1890 they already had
Shahidulla before the issue was decided. By
China had erected boundary markers at Karakoram Pass.
In 1897 a British military officer, Sir John Ardagh, proposed a
boundary line along the crest of the
Kun Lun Mountains
Kun Lun Mountains north of the
Yarkand River. At the time Britain was concerned at the danger of
Russian expansion as
China weakened, and Ardagh argued that his line
was more defensible. The Ardagh line was effectively a modification of
the Johnson line, and became known as the "Johnson-Ardagh Line".
The Macartney–Macdonald Line
Main article: Macartney–MacDonald Line
The map given by Hung Ta-chen to the British consul at Kashgar in
1893. The boundary, marked with a thin dot-dashed line, matches the
Johnson line:pp. 73, 78
In 1893, Hung Ta-chen, a senior Chinese official at St. Petersburg,
gave maps of the region to George Macartney, the British consul
general at Kashgar, which coincided in broad details.:pp.
73, 78 In 1899, Britain proposed a revised boundary, initially
suggested by Macartney and developed by the Governor General of India
Lord Elgin. This boundary placed the Lingzi Tang plains, which are
south of the Laktsang range, in India, and
Aksai Chin proper, which is
north of the Laktsang range, in China. This border, along the
Karakoram Mountains, was proposed and supported by British officials
for a number of reasons. The Karakoram Mountains formed a natural
boundary, which would set the British borders up to the Indus River
watershed while leaving the
Tarim River watershed in Chinese control,
and Chinese control of this tract would present a further obstacle to
Russian advance in Central Asia. The British presented this line,
known as the Macartney–MacDonald Line, to the Chinese in 1899 in a
note by Sir Claude MacDonald. The Qing government did not respond to
the note, and the British took that as Chinese acquiescence.
Although no official boundary had ever been negotiated,
that this had been the accepted boundary.
1899 to 1947
Both the Johnson-Ardagh and the Macartney-MacDonald lines were used on
British maps of India. Until at least 1908, the British took the
Macdonald line to be the boundary, but in 1911, the Xinhai
Revolution resulted in the collapse of central power in China, and by
the end of World War I, the British officially used the Johnson Line.
However they took no steps to establish outposts or assert actual
control on the ground. In 1927, the line was adjusted again as the
government of British
India abandoned the Johnson line in favor of a
line along the Karakoram range further south. However, the maps
were not updated and still showed the Johnson Line.
Postal Map of
China published by the Government of
China in 1917. The
Aksai Chin is as per the Johnson line.
From 1917 to 1933, the Postal Atlas of China, published by the
China in Peking had shown the boundary in
Aksai Chin as
per the Johnson line, which runs along the Kunlun mountains.
The Peking University Atlas, published in 1925, also put the Aksai
Chin in India. When British officials learned of Soviet officials
Aksai Chin for Sheng Shicai, warlord of
1940-1941, they again advocated the Johnson Line. At this point
the British had still made no attempts to establish outposts or
control over the Aksai Chin, nor was the issue ever discussed with the
China or Tibet, and the boundary remained undemarcated
at India's independence.
Upon independence in 1947, the government of
India used the Johnson
Line as the basis for its official boundary in the west, which
included the Aksai Chin. From the
Karakoram Pass (which is not
under dispute), the Indian claim line extends northeast of the
Karakoram Mountains through the salt flats of the Aksai Chin, to set a
boundary at the Kunlun Mountains, and incorporating part of the
Karakash River and
Yarkand River watersheds. From there, it runs east
along the Kunlun Mountains, before turning southwest through the Aksai
Chin salt flats, through the Karakoram Mountains, and then to Panggong
On 1 July 1954 Prime Minister
Jawaharlal Nehru wrote a memo directing
that the maps of
India be revised to show definite boundaries on all
frontiers. Up to this point, the boundary in the
Aksai Chin sector,
based on the Johnson Line, had been described as "undemarcated."
During the 1950s, the People's Republic of
China built a 1,200 km
(750 mi) road connecting
Xinjiang and western Tibet, of which
179 km (112 mi) ran south of the Johnson Line through the
Aksai Chin region claimed by India.
Aksai Chin was easily
accessible to the Chinese, but was more difficult for the Indians on
the other side of the Karakorams to reach. The Indians did not
learn of the existence of the road until 1957, which was confirmed
when the road was shown in Chinese maps published in 1958.
The Indian position, as stated by Prime Minister Nehru, was that the
Aksai Chin was "part of the
Ladakh region of
India for centuries" and
that this northern border was a "firm and definite one which was not
open to discussion with anybody".
The Chinese minister
Zhou Enlai argued that the western border had
never been delimited, that the Macartney-MacDonald Line, which left
Aksai Chin within Chinese borders was the only line ever proposed
to a Chinese government, and that the
Aksai Chin was already under
Chinese jurisdiction, and that negotiations should take into account
the status quo.
Trans Karakoram Tract
Main article: Trans Karakoram Tract
The Johnson Line is not used west of the Karakoram Pass, where China
adjoins Pakistan-administered Gilgit–Baltistan. On 13 October 1962,
Pakistan began negotiations over the boundary west of the
Karakoram Pass. In 1963, the two countries settled their boundaries
largely on the basis of the Macartney-MacDonald Line, which left the
Trans Karakoram Tract
Trans Karakoram Tract in China, although the agreement provided for
renegotiation in the event of a settlement of the Kashmir dispute.
India does not recognise that
China have a common border,
and claims the tract as part of the domains of the pre-1947 state of
Kashmir and Jammu. However, India's claim line in that area does not
extend as far north of the Karakoram Mountains as the Johnson Line.
China National Highway 219 runs through
Aksai Chin connecting Lazi and
Xinjiang in the
Tibet Autonomous Region. Despite this region being
nearly uninhabitable and having no resources, it remains strategically
China as it connects
Tibet and Xinjiang. Construction
started in 1951 and the road was completed in 1957. The construction
of this highway was one of the triggers for the
Sino-Indian War of
1962. The repavement of the highway taken up for
first time in about 50 years was completed in 2013.
Chinese terrain model
In June 2006, satellite imagery on the
Google Earth service revealed a
1:500 scale terrain model  of eastern
Aksai Chin and adjacent
Tibet, built near the town of Huangyangtan, about 35 kilometres
(22 mi) southwest of Yinchuan, the capital of the autonomous
Ningxia in China. A visual side-by-side comparison shows
a very detailed duplication of
Aksai Chin in the camp. The
900 m × 700 m (3,000 ft
× 2,300 ft) model was surrounded by a
substantial facility, with rows of red-roofed buildings, scores of
olive-colored trucks and a large compound with elevated lookout posts
and a large communications tower. Such terrain models are known to be
used in military training and simulation, although usually on a much
Local authorities in
Ningxia claim that their model of
Aksai Chin is
part of a tank training ground, built in 1998 or 1999.
2013 Daulat Beg Oldi Incident
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^ All these characters can be seen in Chinese's standard
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Conflict in Kashmir: Selected Internet Resources by the Library,
University of California, Berkeley, USA; University of California,
Berkeley Library Bibliographies and Web-Bibliographies list
Two maps of Kashmir: maps showing the Indian and Pakistani positions
on the border.
Territorial disputes in East, South, and Southeast Asia
Islands and waters
Bhutanese enclaves ( )
Bolshoy Ussuriysky/Heixiazi Island1 ( )
Kashmir2 ( )
Khao Phra Wihan1 ( )
Korean Peninsula ( )
China ( )
North Borneo (Sabah)1 ( )
Sixty-Four Villages East of the River1 ( )
Arunachal Pradesh ( )
Tuva ( )
Mongolia1 ( )
Jiangxinpo / Northern Kachin1 ( )
Kuril ( )
Liancourt Rocks ( )
Noktundo1 ( )
Paracels ( )
Senkaku ( )
Scarborough Shoal ( )
Sir Creek1 ( )
Spratlys2 ( )
Taiwan Area ( )
Bạch Long Vĩ island1 ( )
Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge ( )
1: Inactive dispute
2: Divided among