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Trans-Karakoram Tract

Coordinates: 36°01′33″N 76°38′46″E / 36.02583°N 76.64611°E / 36.02583; 76.64611
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Trans-Karakoram Tract
Shaksgam Tract
Region administered by China as a part of Xinjiang
Trans-Karakoram Tract is located in Trans-Karakoram Tract and Aksai Chin
Trans-Karakoram Tract
Trans-Karakoram Tract
Location of the Trans-Karakoram Tract within the Southern Xinjiang region is disputed by India
Coordinates: 36°01′33″N 76°38′46″E / 36.02583°N 76.64611°E / 36.02583; 76.64611
Administering stateChina
Autonomous RegionXinjiang
CountyTaxkorgan and Kargilik
 • Total5,180 km2 (2,000 sq mi)
Central Intelligence Agency map of the former British Indian princely state of Jammu and Kashmir with present-day borders, showing the Trans-Karakoram Tract in the northern part of the state (hatched red)[a]

The Trans-Karakoram Tract (Chinese: 喀喇昆仑走廊; pinyin: Kālǎkūnlún zǒuláng), also known as the Shaksgam Tract (Urdu: شکسگام, romanizedShaksgām), is an area of approximately 5,200 km2 (2,000 sq mi)[1] north of the Karakoram watershed, including the Shaksgam valley.[2][3] The tract is administered by China as part of its Taxkorgan and Yecheng counties in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Although the Shaksgam tract was originally under the control of India following the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India in 1947, Pakistan took control of the region after the First India-Pakistan War and subsequently ceded it to China in 1963 through the Sino-Pakistan Agreement, and a border based on actual ground positions was recognized as the international border by China and Pakistan.[4][5] The Shaksgam Tract, along with the entire Kashmir region, is claimed by India.[6][7] Further, New Delhi has never accepted the China-Pakistan boundary pact, asserting that Islamabad "unlawfully" attempted to cede the area to Beijing.[8]

Most of the tract is composed of the Shaksgam Valley and was formerly administered as part of Shigar, a district (formerly a tehsil) in the Baltistan region. A polo ground in Shaksgam was built by the Amacha Royal family of Shigar, and the Rajas of Shigar used to invite the Amirs of Hotan to play polo there.[9] Most of the names of the mountains, lakes, rivers and passes are in Balti/Ladakhi, suggesting that this land had been part of Baltistan/Ladakh region for a long time.

The tract is one of the most inhospitable areas of the world, with some of the highest mountains. Bounded by the Kunlun Mountains in the north, and the Karakoram peaks to the south, including Broad Peak, K2 and Gasherbrum, on the southeast it is adjacent to the highest battlefield in the world on the Siachen Glacier region which is controlled by India.


Boundary of Kashmir in the 1888 Survey of India map of India. The undefined boundary shown in dash line from Malubiting, Raskam, Aktagh to Karakunlun Shan 35°16′59″N 80°15′43″E / 35.28312°N 80.261863°E / 35.28312; 80.261863
Detailed map showing part of the Trans-Karakoram Tract near the Shaksgam River (United States Army Map Service, 1953)
The Shaksgam Valley (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) photographed in August 2008

Historically the people of Hunza cultivated and grazed areas to the north of the Karakoram, and the Mir of Hunza claimed those areas as part of Hunza's territories. Those areas included the Raskam Valley, north of the Shaksgam Valley.[10]

In 1889 the first expedition to the Shaksgam Valley by a European was undertaken by Francis Younghusband (who referred to the Shaksgam as the Oprang).[11]

In March 1899 the British proposed, in a formal Note from Sir Claude MacDonald to China, a new boundary between China and British India. The Note proposed that China should relinquish its claims to suzerainty over Hunza, and in return Hunza should relinquish its claims to most of the Taghdumbash and Raskam districts.[12] The Note proposed a border which broadly followed the main Karakoram crest dividing the watersheds of the Indus River and the Tarim River, but with a variation to pass through a Hunza post at Darwaza near the Shimshal Pass.[12] The Chinese did not respond to the Note and the Indian government never revisited the boundary in the same form again.[13] The MacDonald line was modified in 1905 to include in India a small area east of the Shimshal Pass, to put the border on a stretch of the Shaksgam River.[14]

At the same time, in view of "The Great Game", Britain was concerned at the danger of Russian expansion as Qing dynasty China weakened and so adopted a policy of claiming a border north of the Shaksgam River. This followed a line proposed by Sir John Ardagh in a Memorandum of 1897.[15] That border included the Mir of Hunza's claim over the Raskam Valley. However, British administration never extended north of the Karakoram watershed.[16]

The Gazetteer of Kashmír and Ladákh, first published in 1890 and compiled under the direction of the Quarter Master General in India in the Intelligence Branch, gives a description and details of places inside Kashmir. It includes a description of the Híñdutásh Pass in north eastern Kashmir in the Aksai Chin. The Gazetteer states in pages 520 and 364 that “The eastern (Kuenlun) range forms the southern boundary of Khotan”, “and is crossed by two passes, the Yangi or Elchi Diwan, .... and the Hindutak (i.e. Híñdutásh ) Díwán”. It describes Khotan as “ A province of the Chinese Empire lying to the north of the Eastern Kuenlun range, which here forms the boundary of Ladák".[17]

From 1899 until the independence of India and creation of Pakistan in 1947, the representation of the border on maps varied. In 1926 Kenneth Mason explored and surveyed the Shaksgam Valley.[18] In 1927 the Government of British India abandoned any claim to the area north of the MacDonald line, but the decision did not find its way on to British maps.[19] By 1959, however, Chinese maps were published showing large areas west and south of the MacDonald line in China. That year, the Government of Pakistan announced its willingness to consult on the boundary question.[20]

Since 1947, India has claimed sovereignty over the entire area of the pre-1947 independent state of Jammu and Kashmir and maintains that Pakistan and China do not share a common border.

In 1954 the Times Atlas predominantly depicted the Cis-Kuen Lun Tract (the region between the Karakoram and Kuen Lun mountains) as a part of Kashmir under the caption "Undefined Frontier area". The northern border published by the 1954 Times Atlas more or less followed the watershed of the Kuen Lun range from the Taghdumbash Pamir to the Yangi Dawan pass north of Kulanaldi, but east of the Yangi Dawan Pass, the border deviated from the watershed of the Kuen Lun range on the edge of the highlands of Kashmir.

Sino-Pakistan Frontier Agreement

Official alignment of the Government of Pakistan in 1962. The border is in the extreme north and is depicted as a dotted line with the caption Alignment Official Pakistan Map 1962

In 1959, the Pakistani government became concerned over Chinese maps that showed areas the Pakistanis considered their own as part of China. In 1961, Ayub Khan sent a formal note to China; there was no reply. It is thought that the Chinese might not have been motivated to negotiate with Pakistan because of Pakistan's relations with India.

In 1962 the Government of Pakistan published an official map depicting the alignment of the northern border of Kashmir, which depicted much of the Cis-Kuen Lun Tract as part of Kashmir. The alignment published by the Government of Pakistan was mostly similar to the portrayal of the northern Border of Kashmir depicted in the 1954 Times Atlas, though in places, the Government of Pakistan's position deviated from the 1954 Times Atlas, and included areas as part of Kashmir which were to the north of the border of Kashmir shown in the Times Atlas. Thus the official position of the Government of Pakistan prior to the 1963 Sino-Pakistan Agreement was that the northern border of Pakistan was on the Kuen Lun range, and the territory ceded by the Government of Pakistan was not just restricted to the Shaksgam Valley but extended to the Kuen Lun range. For an idea of the extent of the Trans-Karakoram Tract or the Cis-Kuen Lun Tract, a view the map (C) from the Joe Schwartzberg's Historical Atlas of South Asia at DSAL in Chicago with the caption, "The boundary of Kashmir with China as portrayed and proposed by Britain prior to 1947" would show that the geographical and territorial extent of the Trans-Karakoram Tract or the Cis-Kuen Lun Tract is more or less the territory enclosed between the northernmost line and the innermost lines.

Broad Peak lies on the border of the Tract

After Pakistan voted to grant China a seat in the United Nations, the Chinese withdrew the disputed maps in January 1962, agreeing to enter border talks in March. Negotiations between the nations officially began on October 13, 1962, and resulted in the Sino-Pakistan Agreement signed on 2 March 1963 by foreign ministers Chen Yi of China and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan.[5]

The Indian government took the view that the agreement resulted in the surrendering of a significant area to China. In the opinion of Jawaharlal Nehru, "According to the survey of Pakistan maps, even those published in 1962, about 11,000 square miles [28,000 km2] of Sinkiang territory formed part of Kashmir. If one goes by these maps, Pakistan has obviously surrendered over 12,810.87 square miles [33,180.0 km2] of territory".[21]

See also

AGPL (Actual Ground Position Line), south to north runs through the following
Other related topics


  1. ^ Siachen Glacier is under Indian administration despite being labelled "contested territory" in the map.


  1. ^ Trivei, Abishek (8 July 2019). "Why the 1963 Sino-Pakistan Boundary Agreement Is Unlawful in Light of the Recent ICJ Advisory Opinion on the Chagos Archipelago, 2019". www.jurist.org. Retrieved 2021-11-07.
  2. ^ Snedden, Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris 2015, p. 238.
  3. ^ Schofield, Kashmir in Conflict 2003, p. 101.
  4. ^ Noorani, A. G. (20 October 2006). "Facing the truth". Frontline. The Shaksgam Valley was never part of Kashmir and the northern and eastern boundaries of Kashmir were undefined
  5. ^ a b "Signing with the Red Chinese". Time (magazine). 15 March 1963. Archived from the original on 18 March 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  6. ^ R Chandrashekhar (2017). THE GILGIT AND BALTISTAN REGIONS OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR STATE (PDF). New Delhi: Xtreme Office Aids Pvt. Ltd. p. 63. ISBN 978-93-84492-36-6. An area that is legally part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir has since 1963 been administered by China as a part of Kargilik County and Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County in the Kashgar Prefecture of Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Prior to 1963 the Shaksgam tract had been administered as a part of Shigar. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  7. ^ Complete Atlas Of The World (3 ed.). Penguin Random House. 2016. p. 238 – via Internet Archive. (claimed by India)
  8. ^ "India lodges protest with China over its infra development in Shaksgam valley". The Indian Express. 2024-05-02. Retrieved 2024-06-12.
  9. ^ Senge Sering, Polo Diplomacy as Part of Indo-Pak CBMs: Any Takers?, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, 1 December 2011.
  10. ^ Lall, J. S. (1989), Aksaichin and Sino-Indian Conflict, Allied Publishers, p. 85
  11. ^ Younghusband, Francis (1896). The Heart of a Continent. Asian Educational Services. pp. 200ff. ISBN 9788120608504.
  12. ^ a b Woodman, Himalayan Frontiers (1970), pp. 102, 366.
  13. ^ Woodman, Himalayan Frontiers (1970), pp. 74–75, 102.
  14. ^ Woodman, Himalayan Frontiers (1970), p. 308.
  15. ^ Woodman, Himalayan Frontiers (1970), p. 107.
  16. ^ Woodman, Himalayan Frontiers (1970), p. 298, citing Alistair Lamb in the Australian Outlook, December 1964
  17. ^ The Gazetteer of Kashmír and Ladák compiled under the direction of the Quarter Master General in India in the Intelligence Branch (1890), at page 493
  18. ^ Mason, Kenneth (1928). Exploration of the Shaksgam Valley and Aghil ranges, 1926. Asian Educational Services. pp. 72ff. ISBN 9788120617940.
  19. ^ Woodman, Himalayan Frontiers (1970), pp. 107, 298.
  20. ^ The Geographer. Office of the Geographer. Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Department of State, United States of America (November 15, 1968), China – Pakistan Boundary (PDF), International Boundary Study, vol. 85, Florida State University College of Law
  21. ^ Formal statement of Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru in the Parliament of India on March 5, 1963