Friday, 7 October, 2022
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Pakistan chuckled while India clashed at LAC. Forgot how China nibbled at its borders too

A serious threat may lead to Beijing hitting the pause button on territorial expansion, but in the long run the slow decadal expansionism will not cease.

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To those who watched the recent India-China clashes with dismay and a sense of betrayal by the northern neighbour, one of the most galling aspects was the unreserved glee with which Pakistanis greeted the conflict between their worst enemy and the all-weather friend. Even as Delhi began to gird itself for a possible war, the Pakistani Foreign Minister was on the phone with his Chinese counterpart, swearing that both would stand together on “core interests”.

But what many may have forgotten how China began to nibble away at what Pakistan regarded as its territory, long before Beijing began its forays into Aksai Chin or Ladakh. Even today, China continues its expansion, although in a slightly different format.

China’s steady expansion into Pakistani territory began with entirely imaginary versions of events translated over time into its maps and claim lines. This is a story whose lessons need to be learned well, as Beijing makes new claims in Eastern Bhutan, in addition to the Galwan Valley.

Also read: Modi, Xi are strong leaders, but for lasting peace at the LAC both need to make compromises

An unusual ‘friendship’

China’s covetous eyes were first cast on Hunza, now part of Pakistan Administered Kashmir, but at the time a kingdom strategically placed with ingress into Afghanistan, the Pamirs, Russian Central Asia and South Xinjiang, as also the Shaksgam Valley that bordered Xinjiang.

That’s when China first extended the hand of ‘friendship’. But the Mir of Hunza too had an expansionist vision, and thus laid claim to the Raksam Valley and the strategic oasis of Tashkorgan in Xinjiang, both in present day China. As a new ‘friendship’ was gaining ground, the Mir’s claims did not prevent Qing commanders in around 1847 from “granting” to Hunza, the areas between Yarkhand and Tashkorgan.

Later, despite the Hunza kingdom coming under the lordship of Maharaja Gulab Singh of Kashmir, the Qing troops provided arms to the Mir, also sending their first ever representative to the state.

The British, engaged in their own great game warned the Qing against interference in Kashmir, installed their nominee to the throne, and invited the Chinese to the ceremony in a bid to showcase their influence. An official attended, though this was portrayed by Peking as an indication of Hunza being a ‘tributary’ state.

Meanwhile, the Hunzakuts, continued to plunder trade routes, and send grazers to Xinjiang. This led to a mutually agreed modus vivendi whereby the Mir paid for the use of pasture lands in China. This continued until at least the 1930s, which then became part of the Chinese lore that Hunza was a vassal state.

In parts of Xinjiang however, the Mir had more respect than the Chinese. The flailing government of Chiang Kai Shek even tried to get him to join China at a time when the horror of India’s partition was unfolding. That offer was refused, and by then, Pakistan had established itself in the area.

Also read: Doval spoke on India’s territorial integrity in talks with Chinese foreign minister: MEA

Now independent, friends sign new deals 

After independence, Pakistani control over Hunza was shaky at best. In the 1950s it hastily withdrew its frontier police fearing it might offend its large neighbour, whose nationals could be found living along the border. In 1959, the Chinese released a map claiming some 6,000 sq miles of Hunza and Gilgit as part of their territory. In a telling likeness to the present India-China clashes, these claims were followed by regular military intrusions into the area.

Alarmed, Pakistan launched a diplomatic offensive to convince China that its joining the US alliance system SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organization) was only for defence against India, bolstering this with statements in Parliament that Pakistan would leave the alliance, if it did not deliver on this promise.

China, meanwhile, remained positively ambiguous on Kashmir before India, even while Chou En-lai denied that it was engaged in drawing up a ‘border agreement’ with Pakistan ‘so far’. This, despite the fact that Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Manzur Qadir was holding demarcation talks. Clearly, the Chinese were looking for concessions from India. When none transpired, China refused to discuss any territory beyond the Karakoram Pass with India. On 3 May 1962, China secured a Provisional Agreement on the Pakistan-China boundary, thus securing its claims in the east. By October 1962, China was at war with India.

The eventual Pakistan-China Boundary Agreement, finalised in 1963, gave away more than 2,500 sq miles of Hunza’s recognised territory to China, probably not including its traditional borders that extended beyond the Shaksgam valley, short of the Karakoram pass.

India’s own position is that a total of 5,120 km was ceded in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). The area was surveyed only in 1987, raising the possibility that Pakistan had little idea of how much land it had actually ceded to China.

There is another strange aspect to the 1963 treaty. While Article 6 of the Treaty acknowledges the need for a new settlement after Kashmir is settled, it thereby admits that Hunza and adjoining areas are part of the dispute, a stance which Pakistan has since completely backed off from, talking only about the thin slice of ‘Azad Kashmir’. In October 1967, an unpublished agreement between China and Pakistan, revealed the ‘strategic’ value of these events. It agreed upon an all-weather road through Mintaka Pass, directly into Hunza. This seems to have since been improved upon with a new link directly to Gilgit. This road is largely overlooked by strategic experts, with attention paid only to the Karakoram highway through Khunjerab.

Also read:  How IAF has played a critical role in the India-China stand-off at Ladakh

CPEC is their new playground

The story of Chinese nibbling of Pakistan territory continues with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as locals complain about the takeover of thousands of acres of their lands for ‘Special Projects’, of loss of livelihoods and severe environmental damage.

None of this will stop unless Beijing faces a threat elsewhere, perhaps in the South China Sea. As more countries range themselves against the continuous expansion of the ‘empire’, this will start to coalesce, both inside and outside China. However, the underlying lesson is this: a serious threat may lead to Beijing hitting the pause button, but in the long run, the slow decadal expansionism will not cease.

India would do well to recognise this as a constant threat, and knit this into its long-term defence and foreign policy, before it moves on to the ‘next big thing’. Our short attention span, inevitable perhaps in a pulsating democracy, has proved costly time and again. Better to nail this threat to the wall for good. But, that is going to be a long and arduous haul is the one thing we can count on.

The author is former director, National Security Council Secretariat. Views are personal. Views are personal.

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  1. Why are Indians so obsessed with the land of Pakistan? Obsessed with Pakistan celebrities? Sikhs obsessed with Lahore? Hindus obsessed with Gilgit? Indians should stop being jealous of Pakistan Muslims. They were favored by the British because even Winston Churchill stated that the Muslims are better class of people than Indian Hindus and Sikhs.

    India should focus on conquering their similar cultured neighbours such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Stop bullying Pakistan.


  3. The lies they teach indians in their text books about Kashmir will haunt them for a long time to come.
    Kashmir, simply is a Muslim majority state that was bound to joint Pakistan according to the rules of Partition of subcontinent. Just because the British had their tax collector, Gulab Singh’s family installed there doesn’t not make it India’s part.

    Correct your historical wrongs; Pakistan may not be a poor country forever.

    Just does prevail in the end.

  4. You should worry about India becoming what Pakistan had been for the last 50years or so, a puppet of USA. Last couple of years has proved that it’s well on it’s way and last couple of months have proven that it will receive same treatment from uncle Sam 😂😂😂😂😂😂

  5. Hindustan’s obsession with Pakistan is laughable. Hindustan should worry about how China has taken control of the territory that Hindustan has always claimed as its own. But then, if you bring in Pakistan into the discussion, it will alleviate pressure from the actual discussion.

    • we think the same about pakistan, when your politicians mention about india every other day, and the social media users have to bring in india in whatver topics are being discussed. unfortunate but true. whether an educated person should bother about it, is another matter. ultimately its the politics that divide people.

    • Gadhe k poot Kashmir pe to tum bhi claim krte ho. To agar China kabza krta h to teri hi to Zameen Jati h Gandu ki aulad.

      Aur sooar ki Akal k malik. Kashmir chahe hamare paas h ya tumhare paas, h to Parivar me hi na. Tum saale ullu k pathon ne shaksgam valley China ko dedi. Tumse achcha to purkhon ki virasat hum hi sambhal Lete.

  6. The name says it all and any objectivity you can associate with this piece when the writer’ name is tara kartha …. what a joke of an article this!!

  7. That was just past. What awaits Pakistan at hands of China is even worse. China has been in a constant state of expansion gobbling up neighbors, friends and tributary states for last 2000 years. For them even a tributary state today/past is a part of China in future/present. Future Chinese generations will read and learn that Pakistan got unified with China in 2017. Chinese will outnumber locals in places like Gilgit-Baltistan, Baluchistan etc. Then what will happen to Muslims of Pakistan will exactly be same as whats happening to Uyghur Muslims of Xinjiang!

  8. You should have taken Kashmir yourself if you were so concerned about china taking the land.. and most people in Pakistan dont want to work or they dont have resources and knowledge that chinese workers have for working on cpec.. yes its a looming danger because an open enemy is not as dangerous as a friend who if turned against you can cause so much damage.

  9. Claiming territories once occupied by GB is like trying to claiming both sons of your ex-wife when only one was your real son. Especially when your ex-wife forced adopted the other son illegally. In fact, India has been occupied lots of land that belongs it’s smaller northern neighbors. While I don’t think China has sufficient historical facts to claim ownership of the land but it certainly has more rights than India. India trying to inherit property stolen from GB is simply insane.

  10. Not sure why Indian commentators talk about a Chinese betrayal even now. China has always made it’s hostility to India very clear. There is no Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai sentiment. Whether instigating India’s neighbors, opposing it’s admission to the NSG, propping up Pakistan, making encroachments into the LAC despite agreements China had never hidden it’s intent. If the Indian leadership prefers to wear blinkers and swing with Xi Jinping then it’s hardly China’s fault. Fool me once shame on you keep fooling me then shame on me.

  11. Both India & Pakistan are foolish towards each other………..the whole world enjoys & takes advantage of their stupidity by selling arms, nuclear reactors etc. where as masses in both countries are devoid of basic toilets, health , educational services. Kashmir dispute should have been resolved in 1948 in what ever form. If Punjab & Bengal could be divided in 1947 then some solution should have been found for Kashmir. Leaving Kashmir as a festering wound was plain stupidity as future of peace between India & Pakistan has become hostage to this ongoing dispute which other countries like China are fully exploiting !!!

  12. Countries are not persons. They neither laugh nor weep.If they have a good government they follow pragmatic policies that benefit the majority of their people and indeed the world but that is still an ideal. If they have a bad government a few exploit the majority by slogans like Islamism or Hindutva. Another way to exploit the masses is to paint pictures of imaginary past grandeurs. Both Pakistan and India came into existence in 1947 only but boast about their imaginary ancient history and so egg on their people to engage in useless conflicts that benefit a few exploiters as the masses suffer. In both countries the expenditure on healthcare ,education and infrastructure is miniscule compared to that on the military. Nehru is still abused for limiting military expenditure although it was that which made initial development of India possible of which India is still reaping the benefits.Science predicts that much of India and Pakistan will be destroyed within a century by global warming but the leaders in both countries who live by exploitation find it in their best interests to keep mum about it and just go about their business of exploiting the poor masses.Being selfish(exploiters are always selfish) they have little interest in posterity.

    • Nehru not only neglected defence but also agriculture, healthcare and primary education. He was more keen on allocating tax payers money to his wasteful public sector enterprises. He was unable to even improve his home state or his parliamentary constituency leave alone rest of the country.

    • What a joke!!! Learn history fool. India i.e Bharat did not come to existence in 1947 you illiterate, India is the oldest continuing civilization on the face of this planet. We have a historic continuity of over 10,000 years. China is just like a newborn baby when compared to India.
      Chinese history is just an extension of the great Indian history. Even the ancient chinese literature and traditions affirmed this fact. Get some knowledge before you start writing you wannabe historian!

      • I am sorry if I made a foolish remark. I do not blame you.Let me put the facts down for it seems that you like millions of others including some very intelligent persons have been influenced by the fake propaganda of some extremist groups like the RSS. Written history dates no earlier than the invention of the cuneiform script in 3200 B.C. in Mesopotamia. That is about 5000 years ago. For earlier Prehistory we need other sources.Apart from archaeologists for this we are indebted to David Reich and his coworkers who pioneered the use of genetic studies to unravel mysteries of our evolution and spread and particularly for India we are also indebted to Dr Laljee and Dr.Thangaraj who provided Dr.Reich with blood samples from every nook and corner of India and so helped to unravel the India story.Indians like all other persons have a history dating back to not 10,000 but to about 50,000 years when man i.e. Homo sapiens sapiens who evolved in Africa developed some features which allowed him to out compete all other man like creatures on earth. Indeed all humans outside Africa have just one woman as their ancestor.
        The humans who came out of Africa naturally had their first halting place in what is today called Arabia or Middle East. From there they spread from Turkey westwards to Europe and from Iran Eastwards to the whole of Asia. The first comers from Africa who are today represented by a tiny group in Andaman Islands were 10,000 years back spread over most of South Asia ( India) to the North and West. 10,000 years back an important change was occurring in South Asia( India), as well as many other parts of the world and that was the beginning of agriculture. Till then South Asians (Indians) like all other people were hunter gatherers. Apart from South Asia( India )persons out of Africa had settled into many other regions including present day Iran..They too started trickling into South Asia via Mehargarh in Baluchistan about that time. I have intentionally used the term South Asia as 10,000 years ago the term India or Pakistan or Burma did not exist and we have no inkling of the language spoken in this region at that time. Slowly their mixing with their ancient brethren from Africa who had settled in South Asia gave rise to the Harappan civilization. However the story needed one more influx of originally African people who had settled in Siberian steppes and they (Strictly speaking their menfolk) came to South Asia around 1900 BCE i.e about 4000 years ago. They were horsemen and had chariots and are called Aryans.There were other migrations from China which preceded them and brought Austroasiatic languages to South Asia. So South Asia has a rich human past dating to the spread of man from Africa 50000 years ago but the modern Nation States of India ,Pakistan,Burma etc came into existence only after the disintegration of the British Empire. Early Indians by Tony Joseph is a very readable book that gives a good account of this fascinating story.

    • If Nehru didnot want to spend on military, then he should have settled the J&K issue either way with Pakistan and McMohan line boundary issue with China in early 50s itself. He vacillated and neither did he have any agreements with Pakistan and China nor did he care to defend what was believed to be Indian territory. Given our Constitutions and having issued a formal map of India in 1950, we are now bound to protect what we have and get back what is lost. So the conflicts with both Pakistan and China are inevitable and we need to spend enough to defend ourselves solidly. Let us not live in a make believe world.

      • Remember what L.K.Advani did to prevent any agreement of Vajpayee with Musharraf. Vajpayee could no stand up before hidden hands. The same hidden hands were equally powerful in Nehru’s time though invisible because they represented the National Conscience while Nehru like Jinnah was an Englishman pretending to be Indian.There was nothing Indian or Pakistani in Nehru or Jinnah. Zia was the first real Pakistani President and Modi is the first real Indian Prime Minister.

  13. Pakistan’s is a case of cut the nose to spite the face. Or, rather, I don’t mind losing one eye, if the enemy is going to lose both the eyes. India did not even show guts to recover PoK immediately after its occupation by Pakistan. Nehru did not even attempt to diplomatically bring pressure on Pakistan to vacate PoK. He was busy solving problems of Africa, South America, Korea etc. Now, I don’t think that India can every recover this land. Forget Axai Chin. It is simply ruled out.

  14. Gobar chuckles happily when Ghointha (Cow dung cake) smoldered in fire. Gobar hanse jab ghointha jwale….

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