The Gilgit Agency (Urdu: گلگت ایجنسی) was an agency within the British Indian Empire. It encompassed the subsidiary states of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir situated along the northern border. The primary objective of establishing the Gilgit Agency was to bolster and fortify these regions, particularly in the context of concerns about Russian encroachment in the area.[citation needed] The subsidiary states encompassed Hunza, Nagar and other states in the present day districts of Gupis-Yasin, Ghizer, Darel, Tangir and Diamer. The agency headquarters was based in the town of Gilgit, within the Gilgit tehsil of Jammu and Kashmir.[a]

Gilgit Agency
گلگت ایجنسی‎ (Urdu)

The Gilgit Agency at the northern periphery of Jammu and Kashmir (1946)
• Gilgit Wazarat leased
26 March 1935
• Lease terminated
30 July 1947
• Gilgit rebellion
1 November 1947
19 November 1947
• Merged into Northern Areas
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Jammu and Kashmir (princely state)
Northern Areas
"A collection of treaties, engagements, and sunnuds relating to India and neighbouring countries"

The administered area was bounded in the west by the Chitral State, in the northwest by Afghanistan's Wakhan corridor, in the east by Chinese Turkestan, in the south by the Kashmir province, and in the southeast by the Ladakh wazarat of Jammu and Kashmir (which included Baltistan).

An Officer on Special Duty was established in 1877 in the town of Gilgit, upgraded to a permanent Political Agent in 1889.[citation needed] In 1935, the Gilgit tehsil of the princely state was leased from the Maharaja, which also came under the administration of the Political Agent. The Astore tehsil continued to be under the Maharaja's administration. In July 1947, shortly before the partition of India, the Gilgit Leased Area and the Agency were returned to the Maharaja. However, the Gilgit Scouts rebelled on 1 November 1947 after the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India, and Pakistan took over the administration of the areas soon thereafter.[1][2]

Under the Pakistani administration, the Gilgit, Astore, and Skardu (Baltistan) tehsils, as well as the subsidiary states previously under the agency, were clubbed together under the name of "Gilgit Agency". The unit remained in existence till 1974, after which it was abolished by the Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and turned into the Federally Administered Northern Areas (later renamed to "Gilgit-Baltistan").[3]

India continues to claim the entire region of Gilgit-Baltistan as part of the union territory of Ladakh.[4][5][6]


Present day Gilgit-Baltistan

The Gilgit Agency was a political agency for keeping control of the subsidiary states of Jammu and Kashmir at the northern frontier of India. The areas under the Agency consisted of

All these states had their own rulers or systems of administration; the Agency provided supervision under a British Political Agent.[7][8]

Until 1935, Gilgit and Astore tehsils (now districts) comprised the Gilgit wazarat of Jammu and Kashmir with its own governor (wazir-e-wazarat), who was also based at Gilgit. However, the Political Agent did exercise some control over the wazarat's affairs, leading to a system of dual rule and causing frictions.[7][8]

In 1935, the British leased the Gilgit tehsil as the "Gilgit Leased Area". It was administered directly by the Political Agent. The Astore tehsil became its own wazarat, which was administered as part of the Kashmir province of Jammu and Kashmir.[9]

In 1941, the Gilgit Agency had a population of 77,000 and the Gilgit leased area had 23,000. Both the areas together came to be loosely referred to as the 'Gilgit Agency'. The administration of the Agency was carried out "on behalf of His Highness' Government". The Political Agent communicated with the central government in New Delhi via Peshawar (the capital of the North-West Frontier Province) instead of the Resident in Kashmir, reportedly for "security" reasons.[10]



After 1700s


During the First Anglo-Sikh War, Maharaja Gulab Singh Jamwal (Dogra) helped the British Empire against the Sikhs.[11][12] After the defeat of the Sikh Empire, The Treaty of Lahore (1846) and the Treaty of Amritsar (1846) were signed. Under Article IV of The Treaty of Lahore, signed between the Maharaja Duleep Singh and the British Empire, the Sikhs ceded the territories between the rivers Beas and Indus as war indemnity.

IV. The British Government having demanded from the Lahore State, as indemnification for the expenses of the war, in addition to the cession of territory described in Article 3, payment of one and half crore of Rupees, and the Lahore Government being unable to pay the whole of this sum at this time, or to give security satisfactory to the British Government for its eventual payment, the Maharajah cedes to the Honourable Company, in perpetual sovereignty, as equivalent for one crore of Rupees, all his forts, territories, rights and interests in the hill countries, which are situated between the Rivers Beas and Indus, including the Provinces of Cashmere and Hazarah.

In the north, these territories included Gilgit (the present Gilgit District), Astore (the present Astore District) and Chilas (presently a tehsil of the Diamir District).[13] By 1860, the three areas were constituted as a Gilgit wazarat (district), and the princely states of Hunza and Nagar to the northeast accepted the suzerainty of the Maharaja Ranbir Singh.[14]

The Treaty of Amritsar did not constrain the Maharaja from establishing relationships with external powers, and he is said to have had dealings with Russia, Afghanistan, China and Turkestan. The British watched these developments with concern, especially in the light of Russian expansion in the north.[15]


British Westland Wapitis based at an airfield in Gilgit around 1930

Ranbir Singh's successor Pratap Singh was a weak ruler. The British used the opportunity to establish an Agency in Gilgit in 1889, stationing a Political Agent who reported to the British Resident in Srinagar. The initial purpose of the Agency was to keep watch on the frontier and to restrain Hunza and Nagar from dealing with the Russians.

Soon afterwards, the states of Hunza and Nagar were brought under the direct purview of the Gilgit Agency. The Jammu and Kashmir State Forces were stationed in a garrison at Gilgit, which were used by the Agency to keep order. They were replaced by a British-officered Gilgit Scouts in 1913.[16]

Gradually, the princely states to the west of Gilgit (Punial, Yasin, Kuh-Ghizar, Ishkoman and Chitral) were also brought under the purview of the Gilgit Agency. These areas were nominally under the suzerainty of Kashmir but were directly administered by the Agency.[17] Following a rebellion in 1892, Chitral was transferred to the Malakand Agency in the Frontier Areas[18] The remaining areas remained under the control of the Gilgit Agency, which administered them through governors.[17]

Inside Pakistan (After 1947)


The local rulers of these territories continued to appear at the Jammu and Kashmir Durbars until 1947. Following the Partition of India, on 31 October 1947 the British officer William Brown led the Gilgit Scouts in a coup against the Dogra governor of Gilgit which resulted in the region becoming part of the Pakistan administered Kashmir. Most of the Ladakh Wazarat, including the Kargil area, became part of Indian-administered Kashmir. The Line of Control established at the end of the war is the current de facto border of India and Pakistan.[citation needed]

Initially, the Gilgit Agency was not absorbed into any of the provinces of West Pakistan, but was ruled directly by political agents of the federal government of Pakistan. In 1963, Pakistan entered into a treaty with China to transfer part of the Gilgit Agency to China, (the Trans-Karakoram Tract), with the provision that the settlement was subject to the final solution of the Kashmir dispute.

The dissolution of the province of West Pakistan in 1970 was accompanied by change of the name of the Gilgit Agency to the Northern Areas. In 1974, the states of Hunza and Nagar and the independent valleys of Darel-Tangir, which were the de facto dependencies of Pakistan, were also incorporated into the Northern Areas.

Pakistan and India continue to dispute the sovereignty of the territories that had comprised the Gilgit Agency.

Political agents

  • 17 Jul 1889 - 1 Nov 1893 Algernon George Arnold Durand
  • 2 Nov 1893 - 26 Jan 1894 Andrew Murison McCrae Bruce (acting)
  • 27 Jan 1894 - 28 Sep 1896 George Scott Robertson
  • 29 Jul 1896 - 13 Aug 1897 Stuart Hill Godfrey
  • 14 Aug 1897 - 30 Sep 1898 Arthur Henry MacMahon
  • 1 Oct 1898 - 21 Oct 1901 John Manners Smith
  • 22 Oct 1901 - 18 Oct 1903 William Hall Mackintosh Stewart
  • 19 Oct 1903 - 4 Oct 1906 Bertrand Evelyn Mellish Gurdon
  • 15 Oct 1906 - Apr 1908 Arthur Francis Bruce
  • 30 Apr 1908 - Oct 1908 Archibald Duncan Macpherson (1st time)(acting)
  • 28 Oct 1908 - 29 May 1911 Armine Brereton Dew
  • 30 May 1911 - 12 Oct 1916 Archibald Duncan Macpherson(2nd time)
  • 27 Nov 1911 – 14 Feb 1912 Clendon Turberville Daukes (acting for Macpherson)
  • 13 Oct 1916 - 20 May 1917 Edmond Henry Salt James
  • 21 May 1917 - 22 Sep 1920 Charles Aitchison Smith
  • 23 Sep 1920 - 20 Sep 1924 David Lockhart Robertson Lorimer
  • 21 Sep 1924 - 10 Oct 1927 Gordon Dalyell
  • 11 Oct 1927 - 28 Sep 1931 Herbert John Todd
  • 29 Sep 1931 - 21 Sep 1934 George Van Baerle Gillan
  • 22 Sep 1934 - 4 Oct 1937 George Kirkbride
  • 5 Oct 1937 - 13 Jun 1939 Ian William Galbraith
  • 14 Jun 1939 - 2 Oct 1939 Richmond Keith Molesworth Battye (acting)
  • 3 Oct 1939 - 8 Jul 1942 Gerald Charles Lawrence Crichton
  • 8 Jul 1942 - 5 Sep 1945 Evelyn Hey Cobb
  • 5 Sep 1945 - 31 Jul 1947 Roger Noel Bacon
  • 1 Aug 1947 - 1 Nov 1947 Ghansar Singh Jamwal (Governor, for the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir)

See also



  1. ^ British agencies were generally based in British-ruled territories even though they controlled native-ruled states. In this instance, the Maharaja was persuaded to allow a base in his territory.


  1. ^ Snedden, Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris (2015).
  2. ^ Bangash, Three Forgotten Accesions (2010).
  3. ^ Ali, Nosheen (2019), Delusional States, Cambridge University Press, pp. 33–34, ISBN 978-1-108-49744-2
  4. ^ "Political Map of India".
  5. ^ "Govt releases new political map of India showing UTs of J&K, Ladakh". The Times of India.
  6. ^ "J&K Reorganisation (Removal of Difficulties) Second Order, 2019 -- [Territory of Leh district shall constitute, Gilgit, Gilgit Wazarat, Chilas, Tribal territory & 'Leh & Ladakh' except present territory of Kargil]". 2 November 2019.
  7. ^ a b Snedden, Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris (2015), Appendix V.
  8. ^ a b Bangash, Three Forgotten Accesions (2010), p. 122.
  9. ^ Census of India, 1941, Volume XXII (1943), p. 3.
  10. ^ Snedden, Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris (2015), p. 118.
  11. ^ Christopher Snedden. Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris. p. 67.
  12. ^ Bawa, Satinder Singh. The Jammu Fox: A Biography of Maharaja Gulab Singh of Kashmir, 1792-1857. p. 263.
  13. ^ Schofield, Kashmir in Conflict (2003), p. 20.
  14. ^ Schofield, Kashmir in Conflict (2003), p. 11.
  15. ^ Schofield, Kashmir in Conflict (2003), p. 12.
  16. ^ Schofield, Kashmir in Conflict (2003), pp. 12–13.
  17. ^ a b Chohan, Gilgit Agency (1997), p. 203.
  18. ^ Snedden, Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris (2015), p. 110.