India claims the entirety of the territory of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of the princely state's Instrument of Accession, signed by Maharaja Hari Singh in 1947.

However, the boundaries of the princely state and India's territorial claims don't seem to line up.

On the left is a map from Wikipedia showing the boundaries of the princely state, and on the right is an official map from the government of India.

It's clear that India claims the Trans-Karakoram Tract, the Siachen Glacier, and Aksai Chin as parts of Ladakh.

There is still a sizable portion of land above the Trans-Karakoram Tract and Aksai Chin that is within the boundaries of the princely state. This region is apparently uncontested by India and controlled by China. (The area is unlabeled in the Wikipedia map, but Mazar is labeled in it.)

Why doesn't India claim this land as well, as part of its territorial disputes with China?

The only clue I was able to get was from this 1946 National Geographic map of India, which labels the northern border of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir as "Frontier Undefined". However, all other maps of the princely state that I found generally match this border.

  • That clarification helps... the embedded maps are too small to read and I'm not familiar with all the place names mentioned... But if I follow, you also state in the question that these additional territories the India is not claiming are controlled by China, not Pakistan. Is that not the answer then?
    – Brian Z
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 15:00
  • 4
    @BrianZ No, that's not the answer. Just because the territory is controlled by China doesn't prevent India from claiming it; India has plenty of other territorial disputes with China, including Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh. (I realize the images are small, but you can open them in a new tab to expand them.) Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 15:03

2 Answers 2


I think I've found the answer in Chapter 7: The Disputed India–China Boundary 1948–1960 of the book War and Peace in Modern India by Srinath Raghavan, although the following information can be found in other sources as well.

The northeastern boundary of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir is called the Ardagh–Johnson Line, which was first drawn in 1865 by William Johnson and proposed in 1897 by John Ardagh. The line was rejected at the time by the (British) Indian government as being "too ambitious", and the Macartney–MacDonald Line, a line that gave more territory to China, ended up being proposed instead to the Qing in 1899. The Qing didn't respond, however, and after the 1911 Revolution, leading to the collapse of the Qing dynasty, the Indian government reverted back to the Ardagh–Johnson Line, which would remain the boundary up to Indian independence in 1947. Nevertheless, the border was considered "undefined" because of a lack of agreement with China, explaining the 1946 National Geographic map.

After independence, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru stated in 1950 that the border from Ladakh to Nepal was defined "chiefly by long usage and custom", as opposed to his emphasis on the McMahon Line to the east that delineated Arunachal Pradesh — evidently, "India was surer of its rights in the eastern sector [of its border with China] than in the west." India didn't want to push border issues with China too far since it "was far from consolidating its influence in the border regions and ill-prepared to counter any efforts by China to take possession of these parts."

In 1953, India decided to make official maps to show a defined border with China. To quote the book,

The crucial decision, in retrospect, lay in the Ladakh sector. Here Delhi decided neither on the ambitious Ardagh Line nor on the MacDonald Line, but a "compromise line which had some plausibility." This line placed Aksai Chin within Indian territory. The foreign secretary at the time, R.K. Nehru, later recalled that "in 1953, our experts had advised us that our claim to Aksai Chin was not too strong." The prime minister was "agreeable" to adjustments in "Aksai Chin and one or two other places" being made "as part of a satisfactory overall settlement."

Nehru either didn't bring up or didn't negotiate this boundary issue in later meetings with the Chinese government, including in the 1954 Sino-Indian Agreement and during talks with Premier Zhou Enlai. There were, of course, border disputes, ranging from China's construction of a highway passing through Aksai Chin to the 1962 Sino-Indian War.

Unlike earlier maps, like this one from 1947, Indian maps published during the 1950s, such as this one from 1954 and the one below from 1959, align with India's current territorial claims:

So essentially, the current border dates back to the 1950s and is a modification of a line drawn by the British in the late 1800s that was never really that well defined or enforced.

  • I think your answer deals with the entire Indian Chinese boarder dispute, not the Kashmir lands which China currently administers and India doesn't claim.
    – user47010
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 19:50
  • 2
    @JMS I disagree — my answer is specifically about the Ardagh–Johnson Line and why it was but isn't currently part of India's territorial claims, which I believe answers the question. Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 19:56
  • I was referring to your paragraph on the McMahon Line.
    – user47010
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 20:17

I found this article. The Forgotten Fact of “China-Occupied Kashmir”

The way simplified synopsis is that China made a claim on the territory and occupied it in the 1750s, during the reign of the fourth Qing emperor China Lung (Qian Long). Although they eventually lost control of the region during the 1800's larger British political concerns regarding Russia motivated the British to invite China back in as a buffer against Russia taking up positions on the Indian frontier. Then in 1937 this lead to another British initiative where India would seed the lands jointly claimed by China in exchange to weaken greater territorial claims by China. This late British initiative became incorporated by the Government of India in 1947 when India became independent.

Not that it's part of the question, but I'll say anyway. What elevates the importance of Kashmir today for China and Pakistan is the new modern port being built in Gwadar by the Chinese. The Railway which China is building through Kashmir links up with Gwadar and brings China thousands of miles closer to Persian gulf oil which China is heavily dependent upon. It also allows China to bypass the straight of Malacca which otherwise is a bottle neck controlled by India. The bottle neck is a strategic weakness of China which all know could be used to cut China off from oil imports or trade in the event of troubles.

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From the Comments:

The strait of Malacca isn't controlled by India though, it's controlled by Indonesia.

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India's bases on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at the mouth of the strait and a proposed base on Sabang, would allow it's navy to cut off the straight in the event of a crisis or war. That's what I mean by Control.

China's Malacca dilemma: How India controls Indian Ocean chokepoints

Could The Indian Navy Strangle China’s Lifeline In The Malacca Strait?

  • The strait of Malacca isn't controlled by India though, it's controlled by Indonesia. Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 19:53
  • @JonathanReez, I responded at the end of my answer. Thank you for your comment.
    – user47010
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 20:38
  • That sketch map is terrible in showing borders! Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 14:33

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