Wakhan Corridor (Pashto: واخان دهلېز Wāxān Dahléz,
Persian: دالان واخان) is a narrow strip of territory in
Afghanistan that extends to
China and separates
Tajikistan from Pakistan. The corridor, wedged between the
Pamir Mountains to the north and the
Karakoram range to the south, is
about 350 km (220 mi) long and 13–65 kilometres
(8–40 mi) wide. From this high mountain valley the Panj and
Pamir Rivers emerge and form the Amu Darya. A trade route through the
valley has been used by travellers going to and from East, South and
Central Asia since antiquity. The term "Wakhan
Corridor" can also refer to this constituent valley and the historical
trade route through it.
Politically, the corridor is part of Afghanistan's Badakhshan
Province. In the 19th century, the corridor acted as a buffer between
Russian Empire (Russian Turkestan) and the
British Empire (British
India). Its eastern end bordered China's Xinjiang, ruled by the Qing
As of 2010, the
Wakhan Corridor had 12,000 inhabitants, The
northern part of the
Wakhan is also referred to as the Pamir.
populated by the Wakhi and Pamiri people.
3 See also
5 External links
Further information: Wakhan, Wakhjir Pass, and Pamir Mountains
Lake Victoria, the Great Pamir, May 2nd, 1874, watercolour by Thomas
Wakhan Corridor forms the panhandle of Afghanistan's Badakhshan
Province. At its western entrance near the Afghan town of Ishkashim,
the corridor is 18 km (11 mi) wide. The western third of
the corridor varies from 13–30 km (8–19 mi) in width and
widens to 65 km (40 mi) in the central Wakhan. At its
eastern end, the corridor forks into two prongs that wrap around a
salient of Chinese territory, forming the 92 km (57 mi)
boundary between the two countries. The Wakhjir Pass, which is the
easternmost point on the southeastern prong, is about 300 km
(190 mi) from Ishkashim. The easternmost point of the
northeastern prong is a nameless wilderness about 350 km
(220 mi) from Ishkashim. On the Chinese side of the border is
Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County
Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County of
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous
The northern border of the corridor is formed by the
Pamir River and
Zorkul in the west and the high peaks of the
Pamir Mountains in
the east. To the north is Tajikistan's Gorno-
region. To the south, the corridor is bounded by the high mountains of
Hindu Kush and Karakoram. Along the southern flank of the
corridor, there are two mountain passes which connect the corridor to
its neighbours. The
Broghol pass offers access to the Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan, while the
Irshad Pass connects the
Gilgit Baltistan in
Pakistan occupied Kashmir. The
Dilisang Pass, which also connects to Gilgit-Baltistan, is disused.
The easternmost pass, as indicated above, is the Wakhjir Pass, which
China and is the only border connection between that
country and Afghanistan.
The corridor is higher in the east than in the west; (the Wakhjir Pass
is 4,923 m (16,152 ft) in elevation) and descends to about
3,037 m (9,964 ft) at Ishkashim. The Wakhjir River
emerges from an ice cave on the Afghan side of the
Wakhjir Pass and
flows west, joining the Bozai Darya near the village of Bozai Gumbaz
to form the
Wakhan River. The
Wakhan River then joins the Pamir River
Kala-i-Panj to form the Panj River, which then flows out of the
Wakhan Corridor at Ishkashim.
The Chinese consider Chalachigu Valley, the valley east of Wakhjir
Pass on the Chinese side connecting Taghdumbash Pamir, to be part of
Wakhan Corridor. The high mountain valley is about 100 km
(60 mi) long. This valley, through which the Tashkurgan
River flows, is generally about 3–5 km (2–3 mi) wide and
less than 1 km (0.6 mi) at its narrowest point. This
entire valley on the Chinese side is closed to visitors; however,
local residents and herders from the area are permitted access.
The Russian-India border, c. 1865, before the creation of the Wakhan
Although the terrain is extremely rugged, the Corridor was
historically used as a trading route between
Yarkand. It appears that
Marco Polo came this way. The
Portuguese Jesuit priest
Bento de Goes
Bento de Goes crossed from the
China between 1602 and 1606. In May 1906, Sir
Aurel Stein explored the
Wakhan and reported that at that time, 100 pony loads of goods crossed
annually to China. There were further crossings in 1874 by Captain
T.E. Gordon of the British Army, in 1891 by Francis
Younghusband, and in 1894 by Lord Curzon.
Early travellers used one of three routes:
A northern route led up the valley of the
Pamir River to
then east through the mountains to the valley of the Murghab River,
then across the
Sarikol Range to China.
A southern route led up the valley of the
Wakhan River to the Wakhjir
Pass to China. This pass is closed for at least five months a year and
is only open irregularly for the remainder.
A central route branched off the southern route through the Little
Pamir to the Murghab River valley.
The corridor is in part a political creation from The Great Game
between the United Kingdom and Russian Empire. In the north, an
agreement between the empires in 1873 effectively split the historic
Wakhan by making the Panj and Pamir Rivers the border
Afghanistan and the Russian Empire.. In the south, the
Durand Line agreement of 1893 marked the boundary between British
India and Afghanistan. This left a narrow strip of land ruled by
Afghanistan as a buffer between the two empires, which became known as
Wakhan Corridor in the 20th century.
The corridor has been closed to regular traffic for over a century
and there is no modern road. There is a rough road from Ishkashim to
Sarhad-e Broghil built in the 1960s, but only rough paths
beyond. These paths run some 100 km (60 mi) from the road
end to the Chinese border at Wakhjir Pass, and further to the far end
of the Little Pamir.
Jacob Townsend has speculated on the possibility of drug smuggling
China via the
Wakhan Corridor and Wakhjir Pass,
but concluded that due to the difficulties of travel and border
crossings, it would be minor compared to that conducted via
Badakhshan Autonomous Province or through Pakistan,
both having much more accessible routes into China.
The closure of the
Afghan-Chinese border crossing at the Wakhjir Pass,
on the east end of the
Wakhan Corridor, has left the valley bereft of
The government of
Afghanistan has asked the People's Republic of China
on several occasions to open the border in the
Wakhan Corridor for
economic reasons or as an alternative supply route for fighting the
Taliban insurgency. The Chinese have resisted, largely due to unrest
in its far western province of Xinjiang, which borders the
corridor. In December 2009[update], it was reported that the
United States had asked
China to open the corridor.
^ Bruce Elleman; Stephen Kotkin; Clive Schofield (18 May 2015).
Beijing's Power and China's Borders: Twenty Neighbors in Asia. M.E.
Sharpe. pp. 13–. ISBN 978-0-7656-2766-7. The Sino-Afghan
border was delimited in a secret treaty signed during November 1963.
The corridor shares a border with
Pakistan to its south and Tajikistan
to its north.
^ Pervaiz I Cheema; Manuel Riemer (22 August 1990). Pakistan's Defence
Policy 1947-58. Palgrave Macmillan UK. pp. 46–.
ISBN 978-1-349-20942-2. In addition, the Soviet Union is
separated from Pakistani territory by a small strip commonly known as
Wakhan corridor. Theoretically the Soviet Union does not have a
common border with
Pakistan but in view of their close linkage with
Afghanistan and the shortness of Wakhan's breadth make it an immediate
neighbour for all practical purposes.
^ Yasmeen Niaz Mohiuddin (2007). Pakistan: A Global Studies Handbook.
ABC-CLIO. pp. 18–. ISBN 978-1-85109-801-9. The Chitral and
Kalash valleys of the
Hindu Kush Mountains are located north of the
Swat Valley in the Chitral district of the North-West Frontier
Province and are bordered by
Afghanistan on the north, south, and
Wakhan Corridor separates Chitral from Tajikistan.
^ a b c d e f g International Boundary Study of the Afghanistan–USSR
Boundary (1983) by the US
Bureau of Intelligence and Research
Bureau of Intelligence and Research Pg. 7
^ Wong, Edward (27 October 2010). "In Icy Tip of Afghanistan, War
Seems Remote". The New York Times. Retrieved October 28, 2010.
^ Aga Khan Development Network (2010):
Wakhan and the Afghan Pamir p.3
^ "Lake Victoria, Great Pamir, May 2nd, 1874"
^ The pass was crossed by a couple in 1950 and by a couple in 2004.
See J.Mock and K. O'Neil: Expedition Report
^ a b FACTBOX-Key facts about the
Wakhan Corridor. Reuters. June 12,
^ a b
Xinjiang Border Tour: Reporter arrived at the Chinese westernmost
Wakhan Corridor]. news.sina.com.cn (in Chinese). Global
Times. 2011-07-07. Retrieved 2017-02-05.
^ (Chinese) 小资料：瓦罕走廊 2009-05-05
^ 环球时报 (2009-05-07).
china.huanqiu.com (in Chinese). Global Times. Retrieved 2017-02-04.
^ Stein, Mark Aurel (1907). Ancient Khotan. p. 32.
^ The Travels of
Marco Polo Book 1 Chapter 32
^ Shahrani, M. Nazif (1979 and 2002) p.37
^ Keay, J. (1983). When Men and Mountains Meet. pp. 256–7.
^ Younghusband, F. (1896, republished 2000) "The Heart of a Continent"
^ "Geographical Journal" (July to September 1896)
^ Townsend, J. (June 2005)
China and Afghan Opiates: Assessing the
Risk Chapter 4
^ Jacobs, Frank (5 December 2011). "A Few Salient Points". The New
^ J. Mock and K. O'Neil (2004): Expedition Report
^ United Nations Environment Programme (2003)
Wakhan Mission Report
China and Afghan Opiates: Assessing the Risk" (Chapter 4). June
China to open
Wakhan corridor route. The Hindu.
June 11, 2009 Archived January 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
China mulls Afghan border request. BBC News Online. June 12, 2009
South Asia Analysis Group: Paper No. 3579, 31 December 2009 Archived
June 13, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
Shahrani, M. Nazif (2002). The Kirghiz and Wakhi of Afghanistan:
Adaptation to Closed Frontiers and War (2nd ed.). University of
Washington Press. ISBN 978-0-295-98262-5.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
CIA Relief Map
Wakhan Development Partnership, a project working to improve the lives
of the people of
Wakhan since 2003
We Took the Highroad in
Afghanistan National Geographic November 1950
- Story of the first modern crossing of the
Wakhan Corridor by
A Short Walk in the
Wakhan Corridor, article by Mark Jenkins in the
November 2005 issue of Outside magazine
Wakhan & the Afghan Pamir - In the footsteps of
Marco Polo -
Brochure of the region by Aga Khan Foundation
Coordinates: 37°N 73°E / 37°N 73°E / 37; 73