Responding to the Dalai Lama's recent Tawang visit, the Chinese government has released “standardised“ Chinese names of six towns in Arunachal Pradesh. Rewriting Tibetan names like Bum La into Mandarin, China aims to hit out at Tibetans and at the same time challenge India's claim over Arunachal, which it regards as `South Tibet'.
The Chinese foreign ministry said on Wednesday that some more standardised names of Arunachal towns will soon be made public.
Though Beijing tried to pass off the “renaming“ as a routine exercise, Xiong Kunxin, professor of ethnic studies at Minzu University of China in Beijing, contradicted the foreign ministry by saying that the renaming exercise was aimed to “reaffirm Chinese sovereignty“ over the area. Indian experts said despite China's latest move, India's control over the northeastern state was indisputable.
The ministry of civil affairs in Beijing issued an order on April 14, saying, “The official names of the six places using the Roman alphabet are Wo'gyainling, Mila Ri, Qoidengarbo Ri, Mainquka, Bumo La and Namkapub Ri.“ China has “standardised“ official names for six places in Arunachal Pradesh, days after lodging strong protests with India over the Dalai Lama's visit to the frontier state.
The new names will be shown in the international diplomatic arena as proof of China's claims, sources said.China might even pull out old maps and records to show that these names existed for hundreds of years.
“At present, it has scant historical record to support its claims besides the fact that the 6th Dalai Lama was born in Arunachal's Tawang, and that the Tawang monastery was linked to monasteries in China in the past,“ P Stobdan, China expert and former diplomat, said. He further said China was trying to get India to concede that it would never ever exercise its control over the 14th Dalai Lama in future, a move they had made successfully with Mongolia in recent months.
India has, in recent months, boosted the defences in Arunachal Pradesh. Stobdan also said the Chinese response came after Beijing made an assessment of how popular Dalai Lama's visit was to that state. “The standar disation came amid China's growing understanding and recognition of the geography in South Tibet. Naming the places is a step to reaffirm China's territorial sovereignty to South Tibet,“ the state-backed Global Times quoted Xiong in an article on Wednesday .
What is likely to happen is that India and China may get into a cartographic battle if China forces international institutions and websites and search engines to use the Chinese words. Chinese foreign ministry refused to accept suggestions from reporters that the renaming was a retaliatory measure linked to the recent controversy over the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh. The move comes after China summoned India's envoy in Beijing Vijay Gokhale to protest the Dalai Lama's visit.
“About why we choose this time to announce standardisation of names, China is now doing the second census of names of localities and an important part of it is to standardise names in ethnic languages,“ Lu Kang, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said.
“In the next step we will also step up our study of those names in Tibetan ethnic languages and in the next step we will announce more standardisation of these names,“ he added. But Lu agreed that naming had “supported“ China's territorial claims. “These names reflect from another side that China's territorial claim over South Tibet is supported by clear evidence in terms of history , culture and administration,“ he said.