Pakistan occupies a position of great geostrategic importance,
bordered by Iran on the west, Afghanistan on the northwest, China
on the northeast, India on the east, and the Arabian Sea on the
south . The total land area is estimated at 803,940 square kilometers.
The boundary with Iran, some 800 kilometers in length, was first
delimited by a British commission in 1893, separating Iran from
what was then British Indian Balochistan. In 1957 Pakistan signed
a frontier agreement with Iran, and since then the border between
the two countries has not been a subject of serious dispute.
Pakistan's boundary with Afghanistan is about 2,250 kilometers
long. In the north, it runs along the ridges of the Hindu Kush
(meaning Hindu Killer) mountains and the Pamirs, where a narrow
strip of Afghan territory called the Wakhan Corridor extends between
Pakistan and Tajikistan. The Hindu Kush was traditionally regarded
as the last northwestern outpost where Hindus could venture in
safety. The boundary line with Afghanistan was drawn in 1893 by
Sir Mortimer Durand, then foreign secretary in British India,
and was acceded to by the amir of Afghanistan that same year.
This boundary, called the Durand Line, was not in doubt when Pakistan
became independent in 1947, although its legitimacy was in later
years disputed periodically by the Afghan government as well as
by Pakhtun tribes straddling the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
On the one hand, Afghanistan claimed that the Durand Line had
been imposed by a stronger power upon a weaker one, and it favored
the establishment of still another state to be called Pashtunistan
or Pakhtunistan (see Independent Pakistan , ch. 1; Foreign Policy
, ch. 4). On the other hand, Pakistan, as the legatee of the British
in the region, insisted on the legality and permanence of the
boundary. The Durand Line remained in effect in 1994.
In the northeastern tip of the country, Pakistan controls about
84,159 square kilometers of the former princely state of Jammu
and Kashmir. This area, consisting of Azad Kashmir (11,639 square
kilometers) and most of the Northern Areas (72,520 square kilometers),
which includes Gilgit and Baltistan, is the most visually stunning
of Pakistan. The Northern Areas has five of the world's seventeen
highest mountains. It also has such extensive glaciers that it
has sometimes been called the "third pole." The boundary line
has been a matter of pivotal dispute between Pakistan and India
since 1947, and the Siachen Glacier in northern Kashmir has been
an important arena for fighting between the two sides since 1984,
although far more soldiers have died of exposure to the cold than
from any skirmishes in the conflict.
From the eastern end of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, a boundary
of about 520 kilometers runs generally southeast between China
and Pakistan, ending near the Karakoram Pass. This line was determined
from 1961 to 1965 in a series of agreements between China and
Pakistan. By mutual agreement, a new boundary treaty is to be
negotiated between China and Pakistan when the dispute over Kashmir
is finally resolved between India and Pakistan.
The Pakistan-India cease-fire line runs from the Karakoram Pass
west-southwest to a point about 130 kilometers northeast of Lahore.
This line, about 770 kilometers long, was arranged with United
Nations (UN) assistance at the end of the Indo-Pakistani War of
1947-48. The cease-fire line came into effect on January 1, 1949,
after eighteen months of fighting and was last adjusted and agreed
upon by the two countries in the Simla Agreement of July 1972.
Since then, it has been generally known as the Line of Control.
The Pakistan-India boundary continues irregularly southward for
about 1,280 kilometers, following the line of the 1947 Radcliffe
Award, named for Sir Cyril Radcliffe, the head of the British
boundary commission on the partition of Punjab and Bengal in 1947.
Although this boundary with India is not formally disputed, passions
still run high on both sides of the border. Many Indians had expected
the original boundary line to run farther to the west, thereby
ceding Lahore to India; Pakistanis had expected the line to run
much farther east, possibly granting them control of Delhi, the
imperial capital of the Mughal Empire.
The southern borders are far less contentious than those in the
north. The Thar Desert in the province of Sindh is separated in
the south from the salt flats of the Rann of Kutch by a boundary
that was first delineated in 1923-24. After partition, Pakistan
contested the southern boundary of Sindh, and a succession of
border incidents resulted. They were less dangerous and less widespread,
however, than the conflict that erupted in Kashmir in the Indo-Pakistani
War of August 1965. These southern hostilities were ended by British
mediation, and both sides accepted the award of the Indo-Pakistan
Western Boundary Case Tribunal designated by the UN secretary
general. The tribunal made its award on February 19, 1968, delimiting
a line of 403 kilometers that was later demarcated by joint survey
teams. Of its original claim of some 9,100 square kilometers,
Pakistan was awarded only about 780 square kilometers. Beyond
the western terminus of the tribunal's award, the final stretch
of Pakistan's border with India is about 80 kilometers long, running
west and southwest to an inlet of the Arabian Sea.
Data as of April 1994