The Case of Aksai Chin
Most people interested in the Mountains of India are usually familiar with the name Aksai Chin. It's supposed to be a part of India but is under illegal occupation by China. Most of us are aware how a large part of the Jammu and Kashmir was taken by our neighbour and which are today named as Gilgit Pakistan and “Azad Kashmir”. And the Indian Government calls it Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (Technically the correct term that should have been used was Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir). But for some strange reason the Government never uses the term China Occupied Kashmir/ Jammu and Kashmir for Aksai Chin or the Shaksgam Valley which was illegally cede to China by Pakistan as a part of a border settlement.
So what is Aksai Chian ? Well its a Mountain desert wilderness beyond the Karakoram Mountains with an area of around 15000 sq km and its lowest point is around 4300 m. As the altitude would suggest its a largely uninhabited area and the population traditionally consisted of nomadic herders.
Actually unlike on the Western side the borders of the state of Jammu and Kashmir were never really defined in these parts as no one really ventured into this territory. And this region lay somewhere between the Eastern Turkestan (now called Xinjiang) and Tibet both of which came under actual Chinese control in the late 1940s and by that time the state of Jammu and Kashmir was already a point of conflict. And because of the conflicts on the Western front India never paid any attention to this region and China’s own issues in settling the restive newly taken provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet kept both countries busy in their own affairs.
So once the Chinese had settled the matters in Xinjiang as well as Tibet they decided to build a highway which connected these two Regions. This was to connect both the Regions but the only issue was that this Highway was supposed to run through Aksai Chin and the Chinese built this Highway with the Indian Government totally unaware though there are reasons to believe that the Indian Government was in the know but didn't decide to act till it was too late. The Chinese state that the Road has been built through territory which is a part of Chinese territory. The Highway itself is a marvel of engineering mostly between the altitudes of 4000 to 5000 m.
This conflict in the Indian and Chinese stands stems from a historical baggage of different demarcations of the Border at different times in History. The original Indian claim was based on the Johnson line of 1865. Then there was the Macartney-MacDonald Line of 1899 accepted by Chinese till 1959. And then there was the Foreign Office Line of 1875. All these lines as you can see in the Map are different. And then there is the absurd Chinese claim line of post 1962 which more than doubles the territory that it had claimed earlier.
The Johnson Line of 1865 gave the whole of the Aksai Chin to India all the way to the Kun Lun Mountains. The Macartney-MacDonald line on the other hand gave most of Aksai Chin to the Chinese with the main Karakoram acting as the border between the two Countries.The Chinese had earlier shown the Johnson Line in their Maps as well. The Macartney - McDonald Line was drawn keeping in mind the Great Game which was on at that time between the British and the Russians. So the British decided to give away Aksai Chin to the Chinese. However the proposed Macartney- MacDonald Line was never confirmed by the Chinese but however they took it to be the border. On the other hand the British kept changing the Border between the Johnson Line and the Macartney Line as per their convenience. They could do this easily as this area was/is mostly uninhabited
China and Pakistan also settled their border as per the Macartney-McDonald Line and the Shaksgam Valley was turned over to the Chinese as per this line. So there are no longer any border issues between the two countries now.
In conclusion we can say that this dispute carries historical baggage which comes down from much before Independence unlike the Pakistani occupation which was a result of actions at the time of the Partition. Both India and China have held many rounds of Border Talks and there is also talk of India recognising Aksai Chin as a part of China and China accepting Arunachal Pradesh as a part of India. Of course both countries would want a face saving solution where both look as the winner. Difficult surely but not impossible.
And here is a Video of the Xinijiang to Tibet Road as it snakes through the Pamirs and the Kun Luns.