If I ask you about India’s neighbouring countries, your answer would be 6? 7? 8? Well, India has 11 countries in its neighbourhood, out of which 7 countries share a land boundary with India. India has a land border of 15,105 km and a coastline of 7,516 km. So why are we mentioning India’s geographical area in this blog? It’s because this blog will cover the land border relations of India with its neighbouring countries. These disputes are important to know about the security forces and the expenditures of defence forces.
India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan share a 3,323 km long international land border. This distance includes areas which India claims but is not in control of. This border starts with Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh. The guarding force of this borderline is BSF, i.e., Border Security Force. There’s a misconception that India Pakistan border line is called the LOC, i.e., Line of Control. However, there are three names, Radcliffe line, LoC, and international border, representing the line according to the area.
The Britishers, during the independence, divided India and Pakistan. The Radcliffe line was named after the Chairman of the Pakistan-India Boundary Committee, “Cyril Radcliffe”. The Radcliffe Line covers the border of Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Punjab and a few kilometres of Jammu and Kashmir (because then, J&K was an independent state). On 26th October 1947, when Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession with India, Pakistani tribal warlords had already invaded J&K. In 1949, when the United Nations mediated a ceasefire, the line constructed based on the positions at that time was called the cease-fire line. In 1971, after Pakistan’s loss in war, a Shimla Agreement was signed where Ceasefire line was renamed to Line of Control (LoC)
The first dispute was the illegal occupation by Pakistan on many parts of J&K. According to the ceasefire line in 1949, Pakistan occupied Kashmir, i.e., PoK, to which Pakistan refers Azad Kashmir and an area called Gilgit- Baltistan in Ladakh. One area was attached to Ladakh, which was owned by Pakistan and named Trans- Karakoram Tract (5,300 sq km). This area was gifted to China by Pakistan in the Sino-Pakistan agreement in 1963. In return, China accepted the sovereignty of Pakistan over Gilgit Baltistan.
Another dispute relates to a 2600km area named Siachen Glacier, surrounded by Ladakh, Aksai Chin, and Gilgit Baltistan. 1949’s demarcation was held till the UN-mediated cease-fire line point NJ9842 because the area forward to it was inaccessible. The dispute arose when India captured the Siachen glacier through operation Meghdoot in 1984.
Very few people are aware of the fact that India shares a border with Afghanistan, which was questioned in Parliament too. Well, India doesn’t control the boundary are of Afghanistan which is just 106 km which is situated at Wakhan Corridor. This border has a great significance as it connects India with Central Asian countries. Without this border, India will depend on Pakistan to deal with other Central Asian countries. Also, this border is important to keep control on the acts of Smuggling, organised Crimes and terrorism.
India and China share a land border of 3,488 km. The guarding force of this border is Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Special Frontier Force. Indo-China land disputes are not new; they’ve always remained unsettled, even during British rule. This border covers Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.
Before 1947, when India was under British rule, three boundary lines were considered according to the British Indian Government. There was a time when China invited India for border demarcation, but India continued with uncertain and undefined borders. But China formally captured an area named Aksai Chin in 1962. Let’s look into the three boundary lines. First, the Ardagh-Johnson Line, which is the boundary of north-eastern Kashmir, was made by Surveyor William Johnson, and John Charles Ardagh recommended making it an official boundary. This was emphasised by the forward school which states that the boundary should be kept as forward as possible so that a strong defence can be made against the fast-growing Russian Empire. Second, Macartney- MacDonald Line was proposed in 1899 by the British Indian government to China for the Aksai Chin area. The Chinese government didn’t respond to this proposal; hence, Johnson- Ardagh Line was considered the official border. Third, McMohan Line which was agreed by British India and China (Tibet) in Shimla Convention (24-25th March 1914). Through this line, the limits of Northeast India and Northern Myanmar were decided. The Republic of China was not included in the agreement for McMohan Line; therefore, China does not consider McMohan Line in its map. The Indian part of this border is the defacto boundary in which Burmese part was re-negotiated by China and Myanmar.
One of the most friendly nations with India is Nepal which have open borders aka Porous Border. The total land boundary of the India-Nepal boundary is around 1,751 km. Sashastra Seema Bal is the name of guarding forces present on this border. This border covers Uttrakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Sikkim and West Bengal.
The present border between India and Nepal was set in 1816 after the Sugauli treaty was signed after the war. After independence, Kingdom of Nepal and the Dominion of India recognised this as international borders.
Even after friendly relations between the countries, two disputes recently got highlighted. The first one includes Kalapani territory (a 35 sq km area), which is situated in Northwest Nepal near the India-Nepal-China trijunction. And the second is an area named Susta, which is situated in southern Nepal. These borders mark transboundary rivers, and the reason for these disputes is mainly the different interpretations of the source of these rivers. Recently, Nepal amended its constitution and included certain areas of Indian borders in its maps.
Also Read about The Disputed territories of India here.
The land border between India and Bhutan is 699 km. The border covers Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Sashastra Seema Bal controls the border as it is also an open border. The borders between both countries were settled through the Treaty of Sinchula and the Treaty of Punakha. In 2006, the final border demarcation treaty was signed between Independent India and Bhutan. Till date, there are no disputes between these countries.
India and Myanmar share a border of 1,643 km. It offers a “Free Movement Regime” between the countries, i.e., tribes of both sides are allowed to travel free up to 16 km of the border (without any visa restrictions). The Guarding Force of this border is in the hands of Assam Rifles and the Indian army. This border covers Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram.
India and Myanmar were separated for the first time in 1937 by the British Raj under the government of India Act, 1935. Earlier, Burma (Myanmar) was a part of British India. Through the border agreement, the demarcation was done on March 10, 1967. This boundary line passes between houses and villages due to which many tribes have been divided.
Due to the artificial nature of the boundary, the tribes at the ground level refused it. Border disagreement between both countries is due to the placement of nine border pillars. There are small and pity disputes between these countries.
The longest border shared by India is with Bangladesh, i.e., 4096.7 km. This border covers West Bengal, Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura, and Mizoram. The India-Bangladesh border is known as the ‘Radcliffe Line’ because Cyril Radcliffe demarcated it.
The disputes between these countries are very unique. This is the result of careless and callous attitude of the British government. It was found that Bangladesh had 102 Indian enclaves. Enclave is any area which is away from the mainland and surrounded by the other. The census of 2010 revealed that 51,549 people lived in these enclaves. In 1974, the Land Boundary Agreement was signed between Bangladesh and India through which these enclaves were about to exchange. This agreement was revised on 7th May 2015 under the 100th Amendment Act of the Constitution. The dispute was resolved when these enclaves were allowed to settle wherever they wanted.