Coasts and Borders

India Table of Contents

India has 7,000 kilometers of seacoast and shares 14,000 kilometers of land frontier with six nations: Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Burma. India claims a twelve-nautical-mile territorial sea and an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles. The territorial seas total 314,400 square kilometers.

In the mid-1990s, India had boundary disagreements with Pakistan, China, and Bangladesh; border distances are therefore approximations. The partition of India in 1947 established two India-Pakistan frontiers: one on the west and one on the east (East Pakistan became Bangladesh in 1971).

Disputes over the state of Jammu and Kashmir led to hostilities between India and Pakistan in 1947. The January 1, 1949, cease-fire arranged by the United Nations (UN) divided control of Kashmir. India controls Jammu, the Vale of Kashmir, and the capital, Srinagar, while Pakistan controls the mountainous area to the northwest. Neither side accepts a divided Kashmir as a permanent solution. India regards as illegal the 1963 China-Pakistan border agreement, which ceded to China a portion of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. The two sides also dispute the Siachen Glacier near the Karakoram Pass. Further India-Pakistan hostilities in the 1965 war were settled through the Soviet-brokered Tashkent Declaration.

In 1968 an international tribunal settled the dispute over the Rann of Kutch, a region of salt flats that is submerged for six months of the year in the state of Gujarat. The following year, a new border was demarcated that recognized Pakistan's claim to about 10 percent of the area.

In 1992 India completed fencing most of the 547-kilometer-long section of the boundary between the Indian state of Punjab and the Pakistani province of Punjab. This measure was undertaken because of the continuing unrest in the region caused by both ethnic and religious disputes among the local Indian population and infiltrators from both sides of the frontier. The more rugged terrain north of Punjab along the entire cease-fire line between India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir continues to be subject to infiltration and local strife (see Political Issues, ch. 8; South Asia, ch. 9; Insurgent Movements and External Subversion, ch. 10).

The 2,000-kilometer-long border with China has eastern, central, and western sections. In the western section, the border regions of Jammu and Kashmir have been the scene of conflicting claims since the nineteenth century. China has not accepted India's definitions of the boundary and has carried out defense and economic activities in parts of eastern Kashmir since the 1950s. In the 1960s, China finished construction of a motor road across Aksai Chin (a region under dispute between India and China), the main transportation route linking China's Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region and Tibet.

In the eastern section, the China-India boundary follows the McMahon Line laid down in 1914 by Sir Arthur Henry McMahon, the British plenipotentiary to a conference of Indian, British, and Chinese representatives at Simla (now known as Shimla, Himachal Pradesh). The Simla Convention, as the agreement is known, set the boundary between India and Tibet. Although the British and Tibetan representatives signed the agreement on July 3, 1914, the Chinese delegate declined to sign. The line agreed to by Britain and Tibet generally follows the crest of the eastern Himalayas from Bhutan to Burma. It serves as a legal boundary, although the Chinese have never formally accepted it. China continued to claim roughly the entire area of Arunachal Pradesh south of the McMahon Line in the early 1990s. In 1962 China and India fought a brief border war in this region, and China occupied certain areas south of the line for several months (see Nehru's Legacy, ch 1; The Experience of Wars, ch. 10). India and China took a major step toward resolving their border disputes in 1981 by opening negotiations on the issue. Agreements and talks held in 1993 and 1995 eased tensions along the India-China border (see China, ch. 9). Sikkim, which became an Indian state in 1975, forms the small central section of India's northern border and lies between Nepal and Bhutan.

India's border with Bangladesh is essentially the same as it was before East Pakistan became Bangladesh in 1971. Some minor disputes continued to occur over the size and number of the numerous enclaves each country had on either side of the border. These enclaves were established during the period from 1661 to 1712 during fighting between the Mughal Empire and the principality of Cooch Behar. This complex pattern of enclaves was preserved by the British administration and passed on intact to India and Pakistan.

The 1,300-kilometer frontier with Burma has been delimited but not completely demarcated. On March 10, 1967, the Indian and Burmese governments signed a bilateral treaty delimiting the boundary in detail. India also has a maritime boundary with Burma in the area of the northern Andaman Islands and Burma's Coco Islands in the Bay of Bengal. India's borders with Nepal and Bhutan have remained unchanged since the days of British rule. In 1977 India signed an accord with Indonesia demarcating the entire maritime boundary between the two countries. One year earlier, a similar accord was signed with the Maldives.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress