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Washington University in St. Louis

Publication Date

Fall 2010

Program Name

Nepal: Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples


Ladakh, despite popular myths of an isolated Himalayan kingdom, has been a land built on trade and regional connections with India to the south, Tibet to the east, and Central Asia to the north. By participating in these social, political, and economic networks, Ladakh was able to amass a rich collection of cultural influences from many far-flung locales. Historically many of these regional interactions have been defined by the physical terrain, which mountain ranges divided Ladakh from other areas, which passes where open and when they were traversable. Even the political boundaries before the partition of India were loosely defined by local governors, mountain-tops and enterprising bandits. What British administrators and later Indian ones did not understand was that Ladakh was not a border state, but a gateway to the rich economies of Tibet and Central Asia and that trade created a flow of ideas that created the contemporary Ladakhi culture of the time. However, since the partition of India and the closing of the border with Chinese Tibet, Ladakh's boundaries have been decided by governments in Delhi, Islamabad and Beijing and often are far divorced from conditions on the ground. This paper will seek to understand how these boundaries developed and how they affect Ladakh today.



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