Saturday, July 5, 2014

Maps now and then

Recently published Chinese Map
Large tracks of Indian territory are shown as Chinese

My article Map Now and Then appeared today in The Statesman.

Here is the link...
Why is Delhi so quiet? Probably because ‘China and India are friends’! Friends like in 1954? It is very ominous.  It is perhaps time for Delhi to distribute the maps of India's borders. It will be useful for the general public, the press and for the Indian officials 

Last week, Beijing published its first official vertical national map of China, incorporating vast areas of the South China Sea. The South China Morning Post (SMCP) commented that the new map gave “equal weight to both land and sea, in [Beijing’s] latest move emphasising its claims of sovereignty over the disputed waters.”
Earlier maps showed the islands in the South China Sea on a smaller scale, in a separate box-out in a bottom corner of the map. Mainly due to the prominence given to the South China Sea on the new map, during several days, most commentators concentrated on the South China Sea; finally, the MEA decide to take note of the new map.
Why? Probably because the Indian media had discovered that the new map showed Arunachal Pradesh as part of China. South Block could not keep quiet anymore, especially at a time the Indian Vice-President was visiting China …to celebrate 60 years of “peaceful co-existence”.
The MEA was, however, quick to dismiss the new map by saying that “cartographic depiction did not change the reality that Arunachal was part of India.” The MEA spokesman further elaborated: “The fact that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral and inalienable part of India has been conveyed to the Chinese authority on several occasions including at the very highest level.”
What is more shocking is the fact that the spokesperson forgot to mention the central sector (Uttarakhand and Himachal) where large chunks of Indian territory (such as Barahoti and Nilang) appear on the Chinese map also …and similarly not a word for the Aksai Chin and areas around the Pangong Tso in Ladakh!
Why has the MEA nothing to say about these vast areas of India’s territory? It is all the more difficult to understand after the Indian press had reported: “On June 24, four Chinese high-speed interceptor boats were spotted moving from Srijap I posts around 8.25 am to Srijap VIII, VI and V detachments on the northern banks of the [Pangong] lake. Twenty minutes later, Indian troops on the four American-made boats moved from Thukang base and intercepted Chinese vessels. The two sides first were locked in a face-off and then conducted a so-called banner drill to remind the other side of the Line.”
According to South Block sources, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) boats came 5.5 kilometres into the Indian side of the Pangong Lake (Tso) on 24 June. The incursion lasted over two hours, involving four high-speed Chinese interceptor boats that were pushed back by Indian troops, on their US-built interceptor vessels.
The Hindustan Times quoted government sources to affirm that the lake has seen 12 face-offs between Indian and Chinese troops this year alone: “In 2013, there were no less than 18 face-offs between Indian and Chinese troops in Pangong Tso due to serious difference in perception on the LAC and also due to massive Chinese infrastructure build-up close to the line.”
The non-reaction of the MEA is particularly surprising when one looks at the new Chinese map which shows large parts of Ladakh as belonging to China. China is a regular offender. A few months after the signature of the infamous Panchsheel Agreement, Nehru visited China. On his return, he wrote a note entitled ‘Implications of China Visit’; it was an internal note intended for the MEA officials. He described in detail his visit to Beijing (in October 1954): “During my visit to China, I had a number of talks with the Chinese leaders. I had long talks with Premier Zhou Enlai separately. I also had joint talks with Chairman Mao Zedong and his principal colleagues, Vice Chairman Zhu De, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Peoples’ Congress Liu Shaoqi; Premier Zhou Enlai...”
The Prime Minister was accompanied by the Secretary General of the MEA, NR Pillai, and India’s Ambassador in Peking, N. Raghavan.
In other words, it was a Sino-Indian Summit.
The maps of China were discussed. Like today, they showed several parts of India’s territory as belonging to China. Nehru writes: “I referred to Chinese maps which still showed portions of Burma and even of India as if they were within Chinese territory. So far as India was concerned, I added, we were not much concerned about this matter because our boundaries were quite clear and were not a matter for argument. But many people took advantage of these old maps and argued that China had an aggressive intent, or else why continue to use these maps. In Burma also this caused apprehension.”
Zhou Enlai cleverly replied that “these maps were old ones and China had not done any surveying to draw new maps. Their boundaries even with Mongolia and the Soviet Union were still not clearly demarcated and there were discrepancies. I [Nehru] pointed out that this might be so. So far as India was concerned, I repeated, there was no doubt about our boundaries and I was not worried about them. But I wondered how China would feel if a part of Tibet had been shown as part of India in our maps.”
Amazing (and sad), while Beijing still speaks about the Five Principles, 60 years later, the situation on the ground is repeating itself. Let us not forget that China’s Survey and Mapping Administration has approved the controversial map published by Hunan Map Press, which in its announcement said the map was of “great significance in safeguarding the nation’s water sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
Why is Delhi so quiet? Probably because ‘China and India are friends’! Friends like in 1954? It is very ominous.
Another similarity with 1954:  60 years ago too, Beijing had ‘no problem’ with India; China’s problem was with the American imperialists.
During the Panchsheel commemoration, President Xi Jinping vowed that no violations of territorial integrity would be tolerated, adding though that no nation (read the US) should be allowed to monopolise global affairs. Xi however made it clear: “Sovereignty is the reliable safeguard and fundamental element of national interest. Sovereignty and territorial integrity should not be infringed upon. This is the hard principle that should not be cast aside at any time”.
And then, he started indirectly bashing the US: “All nations should be given equal footing in the global security framework, and share equal rights.”
Su Hao, a professor with China Foreign Affairs University, told SCMP: “The message is that China is not the source of the problem, and it is some external force violating principles of international relations and making chaos in the region.”
One more ‘detail’, but which is vital for India; on the new Chinese map, the size of the Chumbi Valley, located between Sikkim and Bhutan, is really bloated. Does China plan to grab more territory from Bhutan?
A few months before his 1954 visit to Beijing, Nehru had taken up the issue of Indian maps with the MEA Secretary-General. At that time, India was foolishly showing most of the Ladakh border as ‘undefined’. Nehru wrote: “All our old maps dealing with this frontier should be carefully examined and, where necessary, withdrawn. New maps should be printed showing our Northern and North-Eastern frontier without any reference to any ‘line’. These new maps should also not state that there is any un-demarcated territory. The new maps should be sent to our embassies abroad and should be introduced to the public generally and be used in our schools, colleges etc.”
It is perhaps time for Delhi to distribute the maps of India’s borders. It will be useful for the general public, the press and for the Indian officials.

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