Daulat Beg Oldi (also Oldie, DBO) is a traditional campsite and current military base located in the midst of the Karakoram Range in northern Ladakh, India. It is on the historic trade route between Ladakh and Central Asia, forming the last campsite before reaching the Karakoram Pass. It is said to be named after Sultan Said Khan ("Daulat Beg"), who died here on his return journey after an invasion of Ladakh and Kashmir. Chip Chap River, the main headwater of the Shyok River, flows just to the south. The Line of Actual Control with Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin is 5 miles to the east.
Daulat Beg Oldi
|Elevation||5,100 m (16,700 ft)|
|Time zone||UTC+5:30 (IST)|
An Indian border outpost was established here in summer 1960 and remains till this day. An Advance Landing Ground was also constructed here, which is famed as one of the world's highest airstrips. DBO now has a road link, the 235 km-long Darbuk-Shyok-DBO Road, completed by the Border Roads Organisation in 2019 on a new improved alignment.
Location and physical conditionsEdit
Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) lies at the northeastern corner of the Karakoram Range, at the northern edge of Depsang Plains at an elevation of 5,100 metres (16,700 ft). The international border with China is 8 km to the north and the Line of Actual Control with Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin is 9 km to the east. Other than Siachen Glacier military bases, DBO is India's northernmost settlement. The nearest civilian town is Murgo to the south, which has a small population of Baltis.
The temperature plummets as low as -55 C in the winters. The weather deteriorates frequently with strong icy winds lashing much of DBO. DBO has very little if any vegetation or wildlife. Communication is possible only through INMARSAT (satellite) phones.
Expedition of Said Khan (Etymology)Edit
Daulat Beg Oldi literally means "spot where the great and rich man died" in Turki. There are various folklore about whom this refers to—such as the tale about this place being the location where a large caravan was destroyed, or the tale about this place being the burial site of a rich man and his treasure.
According to British colonial-era surgeon Henry Walter Bellew, Daulat Baig Oldi means "the lord of the state died here" and the lord refers to early 16th century Sultan Said Khan of the Yarkent Khanate. Said Khan purportedly died at this place while returning to Yarkent from a campaign in Ladakh. He is sometime mentioned with title of Ghaza for his military expeditions.
The account of this military expedition was recorded by his general Mirza Muhammad Haidar Dughlat, who was the Sultan's first cousin, in the work of history Tarikh-i-Rashidi (تاریخ رشیدی) (History of Rashid).
In Autumn of 1531 (Safar 938 AH), the Sultan Said Khan left Yarkand with Haidar and a few thousand men. Upon first time crossing the Karakorum, the Sultan encountered severe altitude sickness, but he managed to recover. In the course of a few months of campaigning, they were able to devastate Nubra Valley. As winter approached, they split forces. The Sultan left for Baltistan; Haidar left for Kashmir. In Baltistan, the Sultan encountered a population of friendly Muslims, but he turned on them killing and enslaving them, possibly because they were Shiites which was heretic to orthodox Yarkandi Sunnis. On the way to Kashmir, Haider defeated the Dras near Zoji La. In Kashmir, he and his troops were hosted by the king of Srinagar. In the spring, the two parties met up again in Maryul, the Sultan decided to return to Yarkand, but he instructed Haider to conquer Tibet for Islam before his departure.
On his way back to Yarkand in Summer of 1533 (end of 939 AH), the Sultan once again suffered severe altitude sickness. This time he succumbed to his illness near Karakoram Pass. Bellew argues that the location of his death was here at Daulat Beg Oldi. The news of Sultan's death led to a bloody succession which saw the ascension of Abdurashid Khan. Abdurashid Khan recalled the forces in Tibet and exiled Haidar. By then, Haidar had some successes against the Changpa Tibetans of Baryang, but his forces suffered greatly from the altitude and elements. By the time the army returned to Yarkand, of the starting few thousands, less than a dozen were left. The exiled Haidar received the refuge from his maternal aunt in Badakhshan. He eventually joined the ranks of the Mughal Empire where he wrote the Tarikh-i-Rashidi.
The trade route via the Karakoram Pass was used by caravans traveling between Leh and the Tarim Basin. Daulat Beg Oldi was a halting point for the caravans. Filippo de Filippi, who explored the area in 1913–1914, described:
But on the other hand the caravans come and go incessantly, in the summer, in astonishing numbers. The first one of the season passed on June 28th, coming from Sanju on the Yarkand road; then more and larger ones came; in July there were four in one day, almost all travelling from Central Asia toward Leh—the Ladakhis usually do their trading at home. The caravans were of all sizes, from small groups of 3 or 4 men with 5 or 6 animals to large parties with 40 or more pack-animals; the men on foot or riding asses, the better-to-do merchants on caparisoned horses ...
Filippi also wrote that the experienced caravaners passed through the Depsang Plains without stopping, travelling a distance of 31 miles between Daulat Beg Oldi and Murgo in a single day. Others stopped, either at Qizil Langar to the south of Depsang La, or at Burtsa further south.
The trading caravans declined during the 1940s during tensions in Xinjiang (Chinese Turkestan) and completely stopped in the 1950s. In 1953, the Indian consulate in Kashgar was closed down. The Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru told the Parliament that the Chinese wish to treat Xinjiang as a "closed area". Subsequently, China built the Xinjiang–Tibet highway through Aksai Chin.
Sino-Indian border disputeEdit
The Republic of China (1912–1949), having faced a revolution in Tibet in 1911, apparently made secret plans to acquire Aksai Chin plateau in order to create a road link between Xinjiang and Tibet. These plans began to get manifested in public maps only towards the end of its rule.
While the Republic of China claims included the Aksai Chin proper, they stopped well behind the Karakoram mountains, leaving all the rivers that flow into the Shyok River within India, including the Chip Chap River. (See map.) Communist China also published the "Big Map of the People's Republic of China" in 1956 with a similar boundary, now called the 1956 claim line.
However, in 1960 China advanced its claim line further west, dissecting the Chip Chap River. The Chinese said little by way of justification for this advancement other than to claim that it was their "traditional customary boundary" which was allegedly formed through a "long historical process". They claimed that the line was altered in the recent past only due to "British imperialism".[e]
Meanwhile, India continued to claim the entire Aksai Chin plateau.
A border post was established at Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) in 1960 under the supervision of the Intelligence Bureau (IB). By September 1961, the Chinese had established a post in the Chip Chap Valley about 4 miles east of the DBO post as well as roads leading to it. The Indian Army then set up posts at Burtsa, Qizil Langar, at a 'track junction' in the Depsang Plains and at Sultan Chushku. These were intended to block any further extension of Chinese roads. The Intelligence Bureau post at DBO was also reinforced with an Army unit.
In April 2013, a platoon-sized contingent of the People's Liberation Army established a campsite 30 km southeast of DBO, a location in the Indian military's "DBO sector." In reference to their own perception of the LAC's location, India initially claimed that the Chinese camp was 10 km on their side, later revising this to a 19 km claim, and claimed that Chinese military helicopters had violated Indian airspace during the incident. In early May, both sides withdrew their units further back.
Advanced Landing GroundEdit
Daulat Beg Oldi Advanced Landing Ground
|Elevation AMSL||16,730 ft / 5,099 m|
The Indian Army maintains helipads and a gravel airstrip here, the highest airstrip in the world. Routine sorties are carried out using An-32 aircraft to provide relief and supplies to the troops stationed nearby. The base was established during the Sino-Indian conflict in 1962, with the first landing by Squadron Leader C.K.S Raje who set a record for the world's highest aircraft landing at the time. It was operated with American-supplied Fairchild Packets from 1962 to 1966, when it had to be closed down suddenly when an earthquake caused loosening of the surface soil, making the area unsuitable for fixed-wing aircraft. Work was undertaken to make the airfield operational again, and was marked on 31 May 2008, when an Indian Air Force An-32 landed.
The Indian Air Force first landed transports here between 1962 and 1965 and then after a gap for 43 years, the IAF started landing at DBO in 2008. In a significant demonstration of its capabilities, the Indian Air Force landed a C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft in Daulat Beg Oldie on 20 August 2013, thirty kilometers from where the 2013 Daulat Beg Oldi Incident took place in April 2013. This landing could qualify as a world record for a medium-lift aircraft landing at this altitude.
In 2001, the Indian government decided to construct a motorable road from Leh to Daulat Beg Oldi. The road was completed in 2019. The 255-km is Darbuk-Shyok-DBO Road (DS-DBO Road) runs at elevations between 4,000 and 5,000 metres (13,000–16,000 ft). It follows the old winter caravan route via the Shyok River valley going via Murgo, Burtsa Nala and Depsang Plains. The travel time is said to be six hours.
India-China Border Meeting pointEdit
Daulat Beg Oldi – Tianwendian is the highest of the five officially agreed Border Personnel Meeting points between the Indian Army and the People's Liberation Army of China for regular consultations and interactions between the two armies, which helps in defusing stand-offs. The first meeting at this location was held on August 1, 2015 (PLA Day). The events included a Chinese cultural programme and other ceremonies meant to improve relations. Later in the month, India hosted a delegation from the PLA on the occasion of Indian Independence Day and celebrated with traditional songs and dances from Indian culture, Gatka martial arts, and motorcycle acrobatics performed by the Indian Army Corps of Signals. The first ceremonial BPM ever held on New Year's Day was here in 2016.
A meeting hut was constructed approximately a year after the meeting point was opened.
- From map: "THE DELINEATION OF INTERNATIONAL BOUNDARIES ON THIS MAP MUST NOT BE CONSIDERED AUTHORITATIVE"
- Even though the map is of very low resolution, it is apparent that the Chip Chap River is shown entirely within Ladakh. Qaratagh-su, a stream that flows down from the Qaratagh Pass and joins the Karakash River is shown as the source of Karakash. Karackattu, The Corrosive Compromise (2020, Figure 1) gives more detailed maps showing Samzungling and Galwan river as part of Ladakh.
- Map by the US Army Headquarters in 1962. In addition to the two claim lines, the blue line indicates the position in 1959, the purple line that in September 1962 prior to the Sino-Indian War, and the orange line, which largely coincides with the dark brown line, the position the end of the war. The dotted lines bound a 20-km demilitarisation zone proposed by China after the war.
- The purple line's intersection with the Galwan valley indicates the location of a Chinese 'Day 9' post, whose domination by an Indian post on higher ground caused an "apogee of tension".
- But the military justification for the advancement is not hard to see. The 1956 claim line ran along the watershed dividing the Shyok River basin and the Lingzitang lake basin. It conceded the strategic higher ground of the Karakoram Range to India. The 1960 claim line advanced it to the Karakoram ridge line despite the fact that it did not form a dividing line of watersheds.
- Hoffmann, India and the China Crisis (1990), p. 95.
- India completes vital Ladakh road, The Tribune, 23 April 2019.
- India, Ministry of External Affairs, ed. (1962), Report of the Officials of the Governments of India and the People's Republic of China on the Boundary Question, Government of India Press, Chinese Report, Part 1 (PDF) (Report). pp. 4–5.
The location and terrain features of this traditional customary boundary line are now described as follows in three sectors, western, middle and eastern. ... The portion between Sinkiang and Ladakh for its entire length runs along the Karakoram Mountain range. Its specific location is as follows: From the Karakoram Pass it runs eastwards along the watershed between the tributaries of the Yarkand River on the one hand and the Shyok River on the other to a point approximately 78° 05' E, 35° 33' N, turns southwestwards and runs along a gully to approximately 78° 01' E, 35° 21' N; where it crosses the Chipchap River. It then turns south-east along the mountain ridge and passes through peak 6,845 (approximately 78° 12' E, 34° 57' N) and peak 6,598 (approximately 78° 13' E, 34° 54' N).
- PTI (19 April 2013). "Chinese troops intrude into Indian territory in Ladakh, erect a tented post". The Economic Times. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
The nearest inhabited town is Murgo to the south, which has a small population of Baltis who primarily depend on apricot farming and yak rearing.
- Swami, Praveen (23 April 2013). "Ladakh incursion: India, China face-off at the 'gate of hell'". Firstpost. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
Daulat Beg Oldi, the spot where the great and rich man died
- Trotter, H. (1878). "On the Geographical Results of the Mission to Kashghar, under Sir T. Douglas Forsyth in 1873-74". Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London. 48: 177. doi:10.2307/1798763. ISSN 0266-6235. JSTOR 1798763.
Daulat Beguldi (Turki for "Daulat Beg died", an appropriate name for so desolate a spot)
- Teg Bahadur Kapur (1987). Ladakh, the Wonderland: A Geographical, Historical, and Sociological Study. Mittal Publications. p. 28. ISBN 978-81-7099-011-6.
Daulat Beg and his large caravan was entirely destroyed about eighteen miles from the Karakoram pass on the Indian side.
- Kapadia, Harish (2005). Into the Untravelled Himalaya: Travels, Treks, and Climbs. Indus Publishing. p. 186. ISBN 978-81-7387-181-8.
It was believed that the rich man, Daulat Beg was buried here with his treasure.
- Kohli, Harish (2000). Across the Frozen Himalaya: The Epic Winter Ski Traverse from the Karakoram to Lipu Lekh. Indus Publishing. pp. 66–67. ISBN 978-81-7387-106-1.
According to H.W. Bellew, he was no ordinary traveller but a great warrior, a partisan of Babur, the conqueror of Ferghana and the king of Yarkand and Kashgar.
- Bellew, Henry Walter (1875). The history of Káshgharia. Calcutta: Foreign Department Press. pp. 66–67.
(p66) Daulat Beg Uild ... "The lord of the State died" ... (p67) Hydar ... wrote the Tarikhi Rashidi from which these details are derived
- Albert von Le Coq (14 December 2018). Buried Treasures of Chinese Turkestan: An Account of the Activities and Adventures of the Second and Third German Turfan Expeditions. Taylor & Francis. p. 292. ISBN 978-0-429-87141-2.
Daulat Bak Oldi (the royal prince died here), close to the Karakorum pass, is so called because the Sultan Said Khan of Kashgar, on his return from a successful campaign against West Tibet, died here from mountain sickness (Plate 50)
- Howard, Neil; Howard, Kath (2014), "Historic Ruins in the Gya Valley, Eastern Ladakh, and a Consideration of Their Relationship to the History of Ladakh and Maryul", in Lo Bue, Erberto; Bray, John (eds.), Art and Architecture in Ladakh: Cross-cultural Transmissions in the Himalayas and Karakoram, pp. 68–99, ISBN 9789004271807: "When his Khan decided to return home because of ill health, leaving Mirza Haidar to destroy "the idol temple of Ursang (i.e. Lhasa)", he "set out from Maryul in Tibet, for Yarkand". He "crossed the pass of Sakri", which must be that above Sakti (not the Kardung pass as Elias and Ross suggest), descended to Nubra and died at a camping place named Daulat Beg Uldi which is two-and-a-half hours below the Karakoram Pass."
- Bhattacharji, Romesh (7 June 2012). Ladakh - Changing, yet Unchanged. Rupa Publications Pvt Ltd. ISBN 978-8129117618.
Some 400 years earlier, in ad 1527, a Yarkandi invader, Sultan Saiad Khan Ghazi (also known as Daulat Beg) of Yarkand, briefly conquered Kashmir after fighting a battle along this pass. He died in 1531 at Daulat Beg Oldi (meaning, where Daulat Beg died) at the foot of the Karakoram pass, after he was returning from an unsuccessful attempt to invade Tibet.
- Bellew, Henry Walter (1875). "Kashmir and Kashghar. A narrative of the journey of the embassy to Kashghar in 1873-74". Trubner & Co. pp. 95–98. Retrieved 3 January 2020 – via Internet Archive.
- Rasuly-Paleczek, Gabriele (2005). Katschnig, Julia (ed.). Central Asia on Display: Proceedings of the VII Conference of the European Society for Central Asian Studies. Vol. 2. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 29. ISBN 978-3-8258-8586-1. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
On the 16th dhu-l-hiddjja 939/July 9th, 1533, on the way back from campaign in Minor Tibet (Ladakh) the founder of the Moghuliyya-Chaghataid state in Eastern Turkestan, Sultan Said-khan died.
- Filippi, Filippo de (1932), The Italian Expedition to the Himalaya, Karakoram and Eastern Turkestan (1913-1914), London: Edward Arnold & Co., pp. 311–312 – via archive.org
- Fewkes, Jacqueline H. (2008), Trade and Contemporary Society Along the Silk Road: An Ethno-history of Ladakh, Routledge, pp. 140–142, ISBN 978-1-135-97309-4
- Claude Arpi, We shut our eyes once, let's not do so again, The Pioneer, 23 March 2017. ProQuest 1879722382
- Hudson, Aksai Chin (1963), pp. 17–18: "As a part of India, it [Aksai Chin] formed an awkward salient projecting between Sinkiang and Tibet; to get rid of this salient must be an objective of Chinese policy whenever opportunity might offer".
- Fisher, Rose & Huttenback, Himalayan Battleground (1963), p. 103: 'However, the "Big Map of the People's Republic of China" published in 1956, reverted to the alignment shown on the 1947 Kuomintang map. It is important to note that Chou En-lai, in a letter of December 17, 1959, stated that the 1956 map "correctly shows the traditional boundary between the two countries in this sector."'
- Hoffmann, India and the China Crisis (1990), pp. 76, 93
- Fisher, Rose & Huttenback, Himalayan Battleground (1963), pp. 7–8: "When questioned on the divergence between the two maps, Chen Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister, made the demonstrably absurd assertion that the boundaries as marked on both maps were equally valid. There is only one interpretation that could make this statement meaningful: this was an implied threat to produce another map claiming additional Indian territory if New Delhi continued in its stubborn refusal to cede Aksai Chin."
- Raghavan, War and Peace in Modern India (2010), p. 266: "Beijing insisted that there was no disparity between its maps of 1956 and 1960, a claim that only served to reinforce Delhi’s opinion that the Chinese were untrustworthy. By the summer of 1960 meaningful diplomacy juddered to a halt."
- Van Eekelen, Indian Foreign Policy and the Border Dispute (1967), pp. 101–102: "The Chinese officials maintained ... [the] traditional customary line, reflected in their map, was formed gradually through a long historical process, mainly by the extent up to which each side had exercised administrative jurisdiction;... Without admitting any inconsistency they also argued that the line of actual control differed from the traditional customary line because of British imperialism and the recent pushing forward of India. These factors apparently could not contribute to the continuous process of change."
- Kler, Unsung Battles of 1962 (1995), pp. 350–351.
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