Coordinates : 35°7′N 79°8′E / 35.117°N 79.133°E /
China border, showing
AKSAI CHIN (Chinese : 阿克赛钦; pinyin : Ākèsàiqīn; Uyghur :
ﺋﺎﻗﺴﺎﻱ ﭼﯩﻦ) is a disputed border area between
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
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 .
* 1 Name
* 2 Geography
* 3 People
* 4 History
* 4.1 The Johnson Line
* 4.2 The Macartney–Macdonald Line
* 4.3 1899 to 1947
* 4.4 Since 1947
Trans Karakoram Tract
* 5 Strategic importance
* 6 Chinese terrain model
* 7 See also
* 8 References
* 9 Bibliography
* 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 and China.
Aksai Chin as the easternmost part of
Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir state.
China claims that
Aksai Chin is part of
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 (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
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
Origins of the Sino-Indian border dispute
Because of its 5,000 metres (16,000 ft) elevation, the desolation of
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.
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
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
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
Xinjiang , and by 1890 they already had
the issue was decided. By 1892,
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 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
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
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
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
Macartney–MacDonald Line , to the Chinese in 1899 in a note by
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,
China believed 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
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
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 boundary in
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 surveying
Aksai Chin for
Sheng Shicai , warlord of
Xinjiang in 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 governments of China
or Tibet, and the boundary remained undemarcated at India's
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
Kunlun Mountains , and incorporating part of the Karakash River
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 Lake .
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
Trans Karakoram Tract
The Johnson Line is not used west of the
Karakoram Pass , where China
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 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
Xinjiang in the
Tibet Autonomous Region . Despite this region
being nearly uninhabitable and having no resources, it remains
strategically important for
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)
Yinchuan , the capital of the autonomous region of
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 smaller
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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