China Pakistan Boundary Agreement: The Lesser Known Treaty
Conflict and contestation regarding Pakistan’s borders make headlines regularly. In the recent past, violence and belligerence increased not only on the LoC with India, but there have been constant issues of disputes on the Pak-Afghan border. Tensions heightened to the point where Afghani Army directly fired upon Pakistan’s armed forces. During these series of cross-border clashes, one Afghani soldier and one Pakistani Major were killed. Even so, Pakistan has had a plenty of issues on its border with Iran. However, one doesn’t hear much about the Pak-China borders or any sort of tension prevailing there. This demonstrates its relative security and certainty.
Things were not as hunky-dory as they presently are. Until 1962, the bilateral relation between China and Pakistan were not as stable and cordial as they are today. A huge factor of strain between the two neighbors was that Chinese maps incorporated certain parts of the present-day Gilgit-Baltistan, which were under the actual control of the Pakistani state. These areas were contested as both Pakistan and China had a claim over their ownership. However, relations soon strengthened when Pakistan overtly supported the Chinese claim for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. China was able to secure this feat after a considerable effort and Pakistan was at the vanguard of this initiative. Thus, Pakistan’s vote in favour of China gaining a permanent position in the Security Council acted as a propellant that fueled China to withdraw these contentious maps. It also acted as an impetus that ensured China entered into proper dialogue with Pakistan. These negotiations led to the signing of the border demarcation agreement on 2nd March 1963, which was a significant accomplishment for Pakistan. This is because China was negotiating from a position of strength whereas Pakistan was not on good relations with its neighboring states; India, Afghanistan and USSR.
According to the border demarcation agreement, Pakistan has been allowed to maintain all areas adjoining the Chinese Xinjiang region, which had been in its control. Additionally, Pakistan was also allowed to gain control of 1,942 square kilometers of area, which constitutes the Shimshal area that had previously been under the Chinese control. This area is of strategic interest to both countries because it is situated north of the primary watershed dividing China and Pakistan. Inhabitants of the region have traditionally enjoyed grazing rights, as well as the establishment of a post in north Hunza without objections from the Chinese. China has dropped her claim to Hunza due to this agreement, which further adds to its significance. China has previously occupied Hunza and Gilgit, but the Chinese power decreased in the region by the end of the eighth century.
Billions of dollars have been saved due to the settlement of the border dispute between China and Pakistan. Dollars that otherwise would have been spent upon military expenditure as well as territory that Pakistan would have had to lose to China. The treaty has also augmented bilateral relations between both countries, a tangible manifestation of which is the provision of economic, military and diplomatic support being given by China to Pakistan. The construction of the Karakoram Highway is one such pertinent example, which has helped promote trade and enhance connectivity with China. That being said, it is important to shed light upon the fact that the aforementioned developments have not led to socio-economic growth for the forth Northern Areas, such as Gilgit-Baltistan. Nevertheless, this treaty has proved to be a building block for Pak-Chinese relations and has greatly bolstered the faith of the Chinese leadership in Pakistan.
About the Writer: The writer is a law graduate from LUMS and is currently practicing civil litigation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org