Sino-Indian Border Disputes and Conflicting Loyalties

Sunday, January 6, 2019: 11:20 AM
Boulevard A (Hilton Chicago)
Kyle Gardner, independent scholar
This presentation will examine how colonial attempts at border making in the western Himalaya not only produced disputed postcolonial borderlands, but also conflicting national loyalties. It will focus on the historical region of Ladakh, now at the nexus of India, China, and Pakistan. Historical cultural and commercial networks across this “crossroads of High Asia” (Janet Rizvi, 1999) produced close affinities between Ladakh and Tibet, Kashmir, Central Asia, and the plains of India. But the incomplete boundary lines bequeathed to India by the British at the time of independence produced a genuine dilemma for the Buddhist and Muslim inhabitants of Ladakh. Do they accept Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India, or do they consider Pakistan and Tibet as alternatives? By analyzing Ladakhi political debates shortly after independence in 1947, this presentation will explore the relation between boundary disputes and the articulation of national loyalties. It will begin with a survey of pre-colonial understandings of territory and borders and a brief overview of British attempts to demarcate a territorial borderline in the Himalaya. The remainder of the presentation will focus on how the territorial ambiguity of the region at the time of independence opened up possibilities for re-imagining Ladakh’s relationship vis-à-vis Tibet and the newly created states of India and Pakistan.