A strategy of affirmation: why China invents place names in Arunachal Pradesh

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The Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs announced on Wednesday (December 29th) that it had “normalized” the names of 15 places in Arunachal Pradesh, acting in accordance with the regulations on geographical names issued by the Council of State Affairs, the equivalent of the Chinese Cabinet.

The Foreign Ministry rejected the Chinese “invention”. In a statement, the official spokesperson for the ministry said: “Arunachal Pradesh has always been and always will be an integral part of India. The attribution of invented names to places in Arunachal Pradesh does not change this fact.

Why is China giving names to places that are in India?

China claims some 90,000 km2 of Arunachal Pradesh as its territory. He calls the region “Zangnan” in Chinese and makes repeated references to “Southern Tibet”. Chinese maps show Arunachal Pradesh to be part of China and sometimes refer to it in parentheses as “so-called Arunachal Pradesh”.

China periodically tries to highlight this unilateral claim on Indian territory. Giving Chinese names to places in Arunachal Pradesh is part of this effort.

So did he do something like this earlier too?

Yes. This is a second batch of “standardized” Arunachal Pradesh place names that China has announced. On April 14, 2017, its Ministry of Civil Affairs had published “official” Chinese names for six localities in the state. He said at the time that he was publishing a “first batch” of “standardized” names.

“In accordance with the relevant regulations on the management of place names, the department has standardized some place names in the southern Tibet region of China. We have released the first batch of place names in southern Tibet (six in total), ”the Chinese government said.

The six names on this list, written in the Roman alphabet, were “Wo’gyainling”, “Mila Ri”, “Qoidengarbo Ri”, “Mainquka”, “Bumo La” and “Namkapub Ri”.

The latitude and longitude listed with the names showed these places as Tawang, Kra Daadi, West Siang, Siang (where Mechuka or Menchuka is an emerging tourist destination), Anjaw and Subansiri respectively.

These six locations stretched across the whole of Arunachal Pradesh – “Wo’gyainling” in the west, “Bumo La” in the east and the other four located in the central part of the state.

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Four and a half years later, the Chinese renamed eight residential areas, four mountains, two rivers and a mountain pass, according to the state newspaper Global Times. This time too, he provided the latitudes and longitudes of these places.

But what is China’s argument for claiming these areas?

The People’s Republic of China challenges the legal status of the McMahon Line, the border between Tibet and British India that was agreed upon in the Simla Convention – officially the “Convention between Britain, China and Tibet. “- from 1914.

China was represented at the Simla Convention by a plenipotentiary from the Republic of China, which had been declared in 1912 after the overthrow of the Qing dynasty. (The current Communist government did not come to power until 1949, when the People’s Republic was proclaimed.) The Chinese representative did not consent to the Simla Convention, claiming that Tibet had no authority independent to conclude international agreements.

The McMohan Line, named after Henry McMahon, the main British negotiator in Shimla, was drawn from the eastern border of Bhutan to the Isu Razi Pass on the Sino-Myanmar border. China claims territory south of the McMahon Line, located in Arunachal Pradesh.

China also bases its claims on the historical ties that existed between the Tawang and Lhasa monasteries.

In 2017, Lu Kang, then spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said: “China has a consistent and clear position on the border between China and India. It is appropriate action to announce these Chinese place names to the public, as is the case according to regulations established by the State Council. “

What does China seek to gain by making these claims?

As previously stated, it is part of China’s strategy to assert its territorial claims over Indian territory. As part of this strategy, China regularly issues statements of outrage every time an Indian dignitary visits Arunachal Pradesh – it did so more recently when Vice President Venkaiah Naidu visited for s ‘address to the State Assembly in October.

Beijing continues to reiterate its “consistent” and “clear” position that India’s possession of Arunachal Pradesh, although firmly established and recognized by the world, is “illegal”, and calls on New Delhi to stop taking action to “complicate” the border issue.

The “first batch” of name changes in 2017 came a few days after the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, against which Beijing strongly protested. Spokesman Lu said, however, that “standardization” was necessary since all the names used in “southern Tibet” have been inherited by word of mouth for generations by ethnic minority groups.

“These names reflect and indicate in one aspect, that China’s proposal to claim sovereignty over the southern Tibet region has an important historical, cultural, administrative and jurisdictional basis,” Lu said.

Speaking at the time to the Indian Express, Wang Dehua, then director of the Institute for South and Central Asia Studies in Shanghai, said that through this decision, China wanted to prove its territorial jurisdiction over the Arunachal Pradesh.

“The name change is an ongoing process in China. Just as Bombay was changed to Mumbai or Madras was changed to Chennai in India. Standardized names happen to be found in southern Tibet, ”Wang said.

Filing aggressive claims to territories on the basis of alleged historical injustices committed against China is part of Beijing’s foreign policy manual.

The claim on Taiwan is one example, as are the continued efforts to change the “facts on the ground” in several disputed South China Sea islands. The aggression is at all times openly and covertly supported by the use of China’s economic and military might.


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