Invented Names: China’s Claim over Parts of Arunachal Pradesh


    In Context

    • Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs said it would “standardise” 11 place names in what China calls “South Tibet or Zangnan”, an area consistently controlled by India. 

    China’s renaming for places in Arunachal Pradesh

    • About:
      • China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs put out names of 11 places in Arunachal Pradesh in Chinese, Tibetan and pinyin characters.
      • The Chinese Ministry is acting in accordance with regulations on geographical names issued by the State Council, the equivalent of the Chinese Cabinet
    • The places:
      • These places include two land areas, two residential areas, five mountain peaks and two rivers. 
      • It also listed the category of places’ names and their subordinate administrative districts.
    • India’s reaction:
      • The Indian authorities said that they rejected the move “outright”.

    Previous renaming attempts by China

    • This isn’t the first time that China has done something like this. It released two different sets of “standardised” names of places in Arunachal Pradesh back in 2017 and 2021.
    • First list:
      • The six names on the first list then, 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 those places as Tawang, Kra Daadi, West Siang, Siang (where Mechuka or Menchuka is an emerging tourist destination), Anjaw, and Subansiri respectively.
      • These six places spanned the breadth 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.
    • Second list:
      • The second list included eight residential areas, four mountains, two rivers, and a mountain pass
      • Strongly reacting to the release of the second list, India at the time said Arunachal Pradesh was, is, and will always be an integral part of India and the “standardised” names were a Chinese invention.
        • This is exactly what India has reiterated after the Chinese authorities recently for the third time put out another set of names of places in the state.

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

    • China claims some 90,000 sq km of Arunachal Pradesh as its territory. 
    • It calls the area “Zangnan” in the Chinese language and makes repeated references to “South Tibet”
    • Chinese maps show Arunachal Pradesh as part of China, and sometimes parenthetically refer to it as “so-called Arunachal Pradesh”.
    • China makes periodic efforts to underline this unilateral claim to Indian territory. Giving Chinese names to places in Arunachal Pradesh is part of that effort.

    China’s argument for claiming these areas

    • Background:
      • The People’s Republic of China disputes the legal status of the McMahon Line, the boundary between Tibet and British India that was agreed at the Simla Convention officially the ‘Convention Between Great Britain, China, and Tibet’ of 1914.
        • The McMohan Line, named after Henry McMahon, the chief British negotiator at Shimla, was drawn from the eastern border of Bhutan to the Isu Razi pass on the China-Myanmar border. 
      • China was represented at the Simla Convention by a plenipotentiary of the Republic of China, which had been declared in 1912 after the Qing dynasty was overthrown. 
      • The present communist government came to power only in 1949, when the People’s Republic was proclaimed. The Chinese representative did not consent to the Simla Convention, saying Tibet had no independent authority to enter into international agreements.
    • China’s claims:
      • China claims territory to the south of the McMahon Line, lying in Arunachal Pradesh.
      • China also bases its claims on the historical ties that have existed between the monasteries in Tawang and Lhasa.

    • Part of Chinese strategy:
      • It is a part of the Chinese strategy to assert its territorial claims over Indian territory. As part of this strategy, China routinely issues statements of outrage whenever an Indian dignitary visits Arunachal Pradesh.
      • Beijing keeps harping on its “consistent” and “clear” position that the Indian possession of Arunachal Pradesh, though firmly established and recognised by the world, is “illegal”, and asks New Delhi to stop taking actions to “complicate” the border issue.

    Way ahead

    • Laying aggressive claims to territories on the basis of alleged historical injustices done to China is part of Beijing’s foreign policy playbook.
      • The claim on Taiwan is one such example, as are the consistent efforts to change the “facts on the ground” in several disputed islands in the South China Sea
      • The aggression is at all times backed in overt and covert ways by the use of China’s economic and military muscle.
    • While many rounds of talks have ensued, and there has been disengagement at some standoff points, political relations have not been resumed.
    • Until the government probes the reasons behind China’s moves and the motivation for its persistent aggressions, it will be hard to prepare for a future course of action, even as it counters China’s false narrative and a renaming of areas that are firmly within India’s boundaries.

    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] Laying aggressive claims to territories based on alleged historical injustices done to China is part of Beijing’s foreign policy playbook. Analyse. How should India prepare for Chinese aggression on its Arunachal Pradesh?