Khurnak Fort

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Khurnak Fort
China India western border 88.jpg
1988 CIA map showing Khurnak Fort in Aksai Chin
Coordinates33°46′00″N 78°59′16″E / 33.7667°N 78.9877°E / 33.7667; 78.9877Coordinates: 33°46′00″N 78°59′16″E / 33.7667°N 78.9877°E / 33.7667; 78.9877
Elevation4,257 meters
Khurnak Fort
Traditional Chinese庫爾納克堡
Simplified Chinese库尔纳克堡
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese庫爾那克堡
Simplified Chinese库尔那克堡

The Khurnak Fort is a ruined fort on the northern shore of the Pangong Lake that spans eastern Ladakh in India and Rutog County in Tibet. The area of the Khurnak Fort is disputed by India and China, and has been under Chinese administration since 1958.

Though the ruined fort is itself is not of much significance, it serves as a landmark denoting the middle of the Pangong Lake. The fort lies at the western edge of a large plain formed as the alluvial fan of a stream known as Chang Parma and Changlung Lungpa, which falls into the Pangong lake from the north. The plain itself is called Ote Plain locally, but now generally called the Khurnak Plain.[1][2]


The fort lies close to the northern bank of the Pangong Tso and has an elevation of 4,257 meters above sea level.[3] It is situated on a rock in the northwestern part of the Khurnak plain.[4][5]


Map including Khurnak Fort

In 1863, British topographer Henry Haversham Godwin-Austen described Khurnak as a disputed plain claimed both by inhabitants of the Panggong district and Tibetan authorities from Lhasa. He personally believed that it should belong to the latter due to the "old fort standing on a low rock on the north-western side of the plain" previously built by the Tibetans.[6][5] Godwin-Austen remarked that the Kashmiri authorities in Leh had recently exerted their influence in the region such that Khurnak was effectively controlled by the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir.[4][5]

According to Alastair Lamb, the majority of British maps published between 1918 and 1947 showed Khurnak as being in Tibet.[7]

Sino-Indian border dispute[edit]

Prior to 1958, the boundary between India and China was considered to be at the Khurnak Fort[8][9] and Indian forces visited it from time to time and had a post there.[8] China wrested its control since around July 1958, according to most sources.[8][10]

During the 1960 talks between the two governments on the boundary issue, India submitted official records including the 1908 Settlement Report, which recorded the amount of revenue collected at Khurnak, as proof of jurisdiction over Khurnak.[11] The Chinese claim line of 1956 did not include the Khurnak Fort, but the 1960 claim line included the Khurnak Fort.[12]

In 1963, Khurnak Fort was described by the US National Photographic Interpretation Center as follows:

Location--33-44N 78-59E, 20 nm north-east of Chushul, on the north shore of PangongTso. Facilities--one large barracks-type building, 2 large storage-type buildings, and 9 smaller buildings; dry moat on three sides; six AW positions and several individual firing positions. Served by natural surface road; no vehicles observed.[13]

As of 2019, a PLA border patrol company of the Western Theater Command is stationed nearby.[14]

Edward Weller map of Ladakh and Garhwal, 1863
Map including Khurnak Fort (ruins) (AMS, 1954)(AMS, 1954)[a]
Map including Khurnak Fort (DMA, 1982)

See also[edit]




  1. ^ Godwin-Austen, Notes on the Pangong Lake District (1867), pp. 351–352.
  2. ^ Strachey, Physical Geography of Western Tibet (1854), p. 46.
  3. ^ "Khurnak Fort". Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  4. ^ a b Lamb, Treaties, Maps and the Western Sector (1965), p. 72.
  5. ^ a b c Godwin-Austen, Notes on the Pangong Lake District (1867), p. 355.
  6. ^ Lamb, Treaties, Maps and the Western Sector (1965), p. 72: "the said plain ... [of Khurnak] ... is a disputed piece of ground, the men of the Panggong district claim it; though, judging by the site of an old fort standing on a low rock on the north-western side of the plain, I should say that it undoubtedly belongs to the Lhassan authorities, by whom it was built years ago."}}
  7. ^ Lamb, Treaties, Maps and the Western Sector (1965), p. 39.
  8. ^ a b c Pg. 74, La Question de la frontière Sino-Indienne, 1967
  9. ^ Negi, S.S. (2002). Cold Deserts of India (Second ed.). Indus Publishing. p. 66. ISBN 9788173871276. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  10. ^ See:
  11. ^ Fisher, Margaret W.; Rose, Leo E.; Huttenback, Robert A. (1963). Himalayan Battleground: Sino-Indian Rivalry in Ladakh. Praeger. p. 111 – via Questia.
  12. ^ Patterson, George N. (Oct–Dec 1962). "Recent Chinese Policies in Tibet and towards the Himalayan Border States". The China Quarterly (12): 195. JSTOR 651824.
  13. ^ "SINO-INDIAN BORDER DEFENSE CHUSHUL AREA" (PDF). National Photographic Interpretation Center. February 1963. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 January 2017. Retrieved 20 May 2020 – via CIA. Alt URL
  14. ^ China Youth Daily (2019-02-11). "零下20摄氏度!边防官兵巡逻在海拔5700米的雪域高原上" (in Chinese). Sina Corp. Retrieved 6 January 2020. 驻守在班公湖畔的新疆军区某边防团库尔那克堡边防连巡逻分队