The locations of international borders reflect political aspirations as well as power politics and attempts to bring state boundaries in line with nations. The expulsion of Singapore from Malaysia and the exclusion of the Philippines from the United States indicate the power of narrowly defined borders to govern national identity. The concept 'nations-of-intent' allows us to explore counterfactual borders as a way of examining how political aspirations translate into national borders. The paper explores three Asian cases - Malaysia, Mongolia and Vietnam - and makes reference to Indonesia in considering how different senses of what was possible and desirable in the context of decolonization generated different ideas about where borders should lie. This approach also allows us to interrogate losing forces retrospectively about the policies they would have followed within different border configurations.