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India–China Border Dispute: Boundary-Making and Shaping of Material Realities from the Mid-Nineteenth to Mid-Twentieth Century


This paper revisits the intersection of the 19th and 20th century to bring into focus hitherto unused archival and diplomatic correspondence from the attempts to define and delimit a boundary between India and China. The theoretical point of departure for the paper is to discern how perception (knowledge, beliefs, and norms) relating to the boundary evolved over time to alter the meaning and construction of the material reality i.e. the boundary itself. In doing so it establishes how what each country deems today, as its ‘traditional customary boundary’ was not an unambiguous fixed one, but was mutable across different time periods. The political importance of the selection of these boundary lines did not lie in their being ‘true’, or in the claim being ‘real’ but in their being shared by a process of political selection, and then being reified in the respective countries.

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Emanuel Adler , “Seizing the Middle Ground: Constructivism in World Politics”, European Journal of International Relations, Vol. 3 (3), (London, 1997), pp. 319363.

Karunakar Gupta (1971), “The McMahon Line 1911–45: The British Legacy”, The China Quarterly, No. 47 (July - September 1971), pp. 521545.

Robert A Huttenback (1975), “The ‘Great Game’ in the Pamirs and the Hindu- Kush: The British Conquest of Hunza and Nagar”, Modern Asian Studies, Volume 9, Issue 01, January 1975, pp 129.

VG Kiernan (1955), “Kashghar and the Politics of Central Asia, 1868–1878”, Cambridge Historical Journal, Vol. 11, No. 3 (1955), pp. 317342.

Wendy Palace , The British Empire and Tibet 1900–1922, (New York, 2005).

Archibald Rose , “Chinese Frontiers of India”, The Geographical Journal, Vol. 39, No. 3, March, 1912. pp. 193218.

Glenn R. Wilkinson , “The blessings of war: The depiction of military force in Edwardian newspapersJournal of Contemporary History, Vol 33 (1) 1998, pp. 97115.

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Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
  • ISSN: 1356-1863
  • EISSN: 1474-0591
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-royal-asiatic-society
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