Sino-Afghan boundary treaty

Research Memorandum
RES-2, January 14, 1964
TO : The Secretary
FROM : INR - Thomas L. Hughes Signature of Thomas L. Hughes
SUBJECT : The Afghanistan-China Boundary Settlement

Modern China has been involved in numerous international disputes engendered by undefined or poorly delimited boundaries. At the request of the Embassy Kabul, the recent Afghan Chinese Communist border agreement has been plotted on a medium-scale map and the resulting boundary has been analysed.


Boundary agreement produces no surprises. On November 22, 1963, the governments of Afghanistan and Communist China signed a boundary delimitation treaty, the fifth agreement of this nature negotiated by the Peiping regime in recent years. The Afghan-Chinese treaty follows the recent Chinese Communist trend of accepting, for the most part, claims of the smaller neighboring states. As a result, no cession of Afghan territory is involved. The new boundary, 47 miles long, is probably identical with the "traditional" location, although the precise position of its southern terminus is not yet clear. As a consequence of the new treaty, Communist China's boundary disagreements are now confined to Korea, India and the U.S.S.R.

Group 1
Excluded from automatic downgrading
and declassification.


For the last several years, the Chinese Communist regime has been engaged in "tidying up" its international boundaries. Boundary accords have been signed with Burma, Nepal, Pakistan, Mongolia, and, most recently, with Afghanistan. (The boundaries with Viet-Nam and Laos were established in 1887 and 1895 and have long been accepted and trouble-free.) The five treaties leave only a minor dispute with North Korea[1] (the next to be resolved?) and the major difficulties with India and the Soviet Union. The political nature of the settlements is witnessed by the generous terms offered by the Chinese to their smaller neighbors and the acceptance of the "watershed principle" where applicable. These positions contrast sharply with the Chinese belligerency toward India and the U.S.S.R. including a flat rejection of the Indian-proposed watershed boundary.


On March 2, 1963, the Afghan and Chinese Foreign Offices announced simultaneously that their common border would be delimited in the near future. In mid-June, 1963, a six-man Chinese delegation visited Kabul and, after brief negotiations, a preliminary delimitation agreement was initialed on July 1, 1963. The formal Accord was signed in Peiping on November 22.

The complete text is reprinted as an Annex.


The acceptance by the Chinese Communists of the watershed as the line between the two countries occasions no surprise. This boundary, although it has had no official basis in treaty, has long been the accepted frontier between the two states. While, prior to 1953, Chinese maps showed the entire Wakhan corridor within their territory, in recent years this claim has been deemphasized by the Peiping regime.

The treaty, however, raises two minor questions. The first is the precise location of the Afghan-Chinese-Hunza[2] tripoint. In the Sino-Afghan treaty, the coordinates are indicated as "approximately 37° 03′ north, 74° 36′ east ...". The China-Pakistan treaty, while citing the same elevation (5,630 meters), gives the coordinates as "approximately Longitude 74° 34′ E. and Latitude 37° 03′ N. ...". The identical point is thus supplied with coordinates approximately 2 miles apart. While the difference is not significant in this essentially uncharted territory, it does raise a technical question. (See attached map.)

The more important issue, however, is the apparent movement of the aforementioned tripoint approximately 3 miles to the east of the location shown on British medium-scale, topographic maps. The change in the position of the tripoint would displace the Afghanistan-Hunza boundary a similar distance eastward. However, since the Afghan and Chinese Communist Governments both have annexed their own maps to the treaty--implying differences in features and/or locations--the treaty coordinates may actually be a compromise between two differing map positions. As a result, the coordinates would represent only a movement of the mapped location rather than an actual alteration of the boundary or a transfer of territory. The eventual publication of the two demarcation commissions' maps--the Sino-Afghan and Sino-Pakistani--will probably solve the riddle of the exact location of the tripoint.




The full text of the Sino-Afghan boundary treaty is as follows:

The Chairman of the CPR and His Majesty the King of Afghanistan;

With a view of insuring the further development of the friendly and good neighborly relations which happily exist between the two independent and sovereign states, China and Afghanistan;

Resolving to delimit and demarcate formally the boundary existing between China and Afghanistan in the Pamirs in accordance with the principles of respect for each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity and mutual nonaggression and the Ten Principles of the Bandung Conference, and in the spirit of friendship, cooperation and mutual understanding;

Firmly believing that the formal delimitation and demarcation of the boundary between the two countries will further strengthen the peace and security of this region;

Have decided for this purpose to conclude the present treaty, and appointed as their respective plenipotentiaries;

For the Chairman of the CPR: Chen I, Minister of Foreign Affairs;

For His Majesty the King of Afghanistan: Al-Qayyum, Minister of the Interior;

Who, having examined each other's full powers and found them to be in good and due form, have agreed upon the following:

Article 1. The contracting parties agree that starting from a peak with a height of 5,630 meters--the reference coordinates of which are approximately 37 degrees 03 minutes north, 74 degrees 36 minutes east in the southern extremity, the boundary line between the two countries runs along the Mustagh Range watershed between the Karachukur Su River, a tributary of the Tashkurghan River, on the one hand, and the sources of the Aksu River and the Wakhjir River, the upper reaches of the Wakhan River, on the other hand, passing through South Wakhjir Daban (Called Wakhjir Pass on the Afghan map) at the elevation of 4,923 meters, North Wakhjir Daban (named on the Chinese map only), West Koktorok Daban (named on the Chinese map only), East Koktorok Daban (called Kara Jilga Pass on the Afghan Map), Tok Man Su Daban (called Mihman Yoli Pass on the Afghan map), Sirik Tash Daban (named on the Chinese map only), Kokrash Kol Daban (called Tigarman Su Pass on the Afghan map) and reaches Peak Kokrash Kol (called Peak Povalo Shveikovski on the Afghan map) with a height of 5,698 meters. The entire boundary line as described in the present article is shown on the 1:200,000 scale map of the Chinese side in Chinese and the 1:253,440 scale map of the Afghan side in Persian, which are attached to the present treaty. Both of the above-mentioned maps have English words as an auxiliary.

Article 2. The contracting parties agree that wherever the boundary between the two countries follows a watershed, the ridge thereof shall be the boundary line, and wherever it passes through a daban--pass--the water-parting line thereof shall be the boundary line,

Article 3. The contracting parties agree that:

1-- As soon as the present treaty comes into force a Chinese-Afghan joint boundary demarcation commission composed of an equal number of representatives and several advisers from each side shall be set up to carry out on location concrete surveys of the boundary between the two countries and to erect boundary markers in accordance with the provisions of Article 1 of the present treaty and then draft a protocol relating to the boundary between the two countries and prepare boundary maps setting forth in detail the alignment of the boundary line and the location of the boundary markers on the ground.

2-- The protocol and the boundary maps mentioned in paragraph one of the present article, upon coming into force after being signed by the representatives of the two governments, shall become annexes to the present treaty, and the boundary maps prepared by the joint boundary demarcation commission shall replace the maps attached to the present treaty.

3-- Upon the signing of the above-mentioned protocol and boundary maps, the tasks of the Chinese-Afghan joint boundary demarcation commission shall be terminated.

Article 4. The contracting parties agree that any dispute concerning the boundary which may arise after the formal delimitation of the boundary between the two countries shall be settled by the two parties through friendly consultation.

Article 5. The present treaty shall come into force on the day of its signature.

Done in duplicate in Peking on 22 November 1963 in the Chinese, Persian, and English languages, all three texts being equally authentic.

(Signed) Chen I, plenipotentiary of the CPR.

(Signed) Al-Qayyum, plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Afghanistan.


Sino-Afghan Treaty map.png

Watershed alignment specified in treaty

China-Pakistan provisional agreement

Specified Pass or Peak

Specified River

74°33′ E, 37°36′ N.

Probable location of peak 5630m. (18,470)

SCALE: 1 inch equals 4 miles

  1. International Boundary Study No. 17, June 29, 1962, "China-Korea Boundary", TNR/RES/GE.
  2. Hunza is a part of Jammu and Kashmir, which is in dispute between Pakistan and India.

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