There has been a big furore in India, for over a week now, about a map released by China. One can see that it is a “standard map” of China (picture above) that is not particularly aimed at India. “ While the map is an annual exercise, the timing of its release is also significant ahead of the G-20 summit in Delhi on September 9-10, ” it is said. Questions and doubts were raised why it was released now, days after Xi-Modi meeting at BRICS and ahead of G-20 summit. A more important question, but not asked, is why a row is being kicked up on it. There is an international context to the map, and a national context in which it is being blown up. We discuss both aspects in this article; mark all the dates mentioned, it helps to know why.
The provocation for all this was this: China on August 28 released the 2023 edition of its “standard map”, that included Arunachal Pradesh, Aksai Chin region, Taiwan and the disputed South China Sea, reported PTI, which referred to a tweet by the Chinese state-run Global Times. That stated, “This map is compiled based on the drawing method of national boundaries of China and various countries in the world.” It was released during “National Mapping Awareness Publicity Week” in China, and would be followed by other digital and navigational maps, said China (The Hindu, 29 August, 2023, and PTI.)
The map was launched on the website of the standard map service hosted by the Ministry of Natural Resources, not Foreign Ministry, reported aljazeera.com, citing the Chinese tweet. (https://twitter.com/globaltimesnews/status/1696104724691570945).
Reports in the Indian media gave a spin that China “claimed” territories belonging to India, and there was a furore, going beyond formal diplomatic protest. “The protest by New Delhi followed reports in the Indian media,” reported Reuters, Aug 29.
China on Aug 30 clarified: “The release of the 2023 edition of the standard map (given above) of China is the country’s normal exercise of sovereignty in accordance with the law..It’s hoped that relevant parties will treat it objectively and not over-interpret it,” it added. (India Today News Desk).
In fact, India’s Foreign Minister Jaishankar on Aug 29 said: “It is not something which is new. It started in the 1950s..I think this doesn’t change anything. These territories are very much part of India.”
Referring to the spin on China’s claims, he told NDTV, “Making absurd claims on India’s territory does not make it China’s territory.”
India’s foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi, the same day, said in a statement: “We reject these claims as they have no basis. Such steps by the Chinese side only complicate the resolution of the boundary question.”
The whole episode smacks of disinformation, the question we had raised in an article: Disinformation, a key instrument of India’s foreign policy in relation to China and Pakistan? ( countercurrents.org, 01/07/2023).
India and China significantly agreed at BRICS meet to “intensify efforts at expeditious disengagement and de-escalation.”
( L to R) Presidents Xi Jinping of China, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at BRICS Summit, Johannesburg, Aug 23, 2023. It shows the growing friendship of BRICS countries, that was an eye-sore to the West, the US in particular. Modi had a brief but significant “conversation” with Xi, on the sidelines of the summit, on LAC and returned to Delhi on Aug 26. Soon after, mark all the dates in this article,the Indian media was gripped by an anti-China tirade, seeking to undo the BRICS spirit.
Why this furore now?
India and China significantly agreed at BRICS meet to “intensify efforts at expeditious disengagement and de-escalation,” businesstoday.in reported.
The LAC came up in a brief “conversation” on the sidelines of the BRICS meet. India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said PM Modi conveyed to Xi Jinping India’s concerns on the “unresolved” issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, underlining that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in border areas was essential for normalisation of India-China ties.
Kwatra stated PM Modi and President Xi agreed to direct their relevant officials to intensify efforts at “expeditious disengagement and de-escalation”. (Business Today Desk, Aug 25, 2023).
The same report quoted an official statement by China: “The two leaders had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on current China-India relations and other questions of shared interest,” the statement read. SPOTLIGHT
“President Xi stressed that improving China-India relations serves the common interests of the two countries and peoples, and is also conducive to peace, stability and development of the world and the region. The two sides should bear in mind the overall interests of their bilateral relations and handle properly the border issue so as to jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in the border region.”
Obviously, it was a spirit of reconciliation, of a thaw, one step forward, that was disliked by the West, the USA in particular, who hated the BRICS moves. Senior diplomat, and former Ambassador, M. K. Bhadrakumar commented after the summit:
“ Reuters floated a rumour that Prime Minister Narendra Modi might not attend the summit in person, which of course was an excessive case of wishful thinking but called attention to what a high stakes geopolitical game BRICS has become. Such paranoia was unprecedented. If up until last year, the Western game was to mock at BRICS as an inconsequential club, the pendulum has swung to the other extreme.
The reasons are not far to seek: the grouping’s acceleration toward a “de-dollarisation” process. India became a beacon of hope for the Western media for a short while in the run-up to the BRICS Summit, a potential dissenter who might derail the process…”
He added in his blog: “ And this is at a time when the United States’ morbid fear of being overtaken by China peaked — burying the global hegemony of the West since the “geographical discoveries” of the 15th century.”
(India, the reluctant BRICS traveller, August 28, 2023.)
Despite such “wishful thinking” and “a western game”, Modi went to the summit. There were rumors that there would not be any exchange between Modi and Xi. But there indeed was a fruitful “conversation.”
In fact, both sides worked for it at the 19th round of corps commander-level dialogue at the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point on Aug 13-14, barely 10 days before the summit.
“The military talks were conducted ahead of the BRICS summit in South Africa on August 22-24, which both PM Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping will be attending. Moreover, Xi is also slated to visit India for the G20 summit on September 9-10.”
Sources said the talks were “better than the previous few rounds” with “some amount of agreement to move ahead” in strengthening confidence-building measures and not further increasing force-levels along the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC).
“This was also reflected in the two sides issuing a joint statement on August 15 Tuesday, unlike the separate ones after the 18 th round on April 23. India and China “agreed to resolve the remaining issues in an expeditious manner and maintain the momentum of dialogue and negotiations through military and diplomatic channels”, the joint statement said. “In the interim, the two sides agreed to maintain the peace and tranquillity on the ground in the border areas,” it said. The two sides had “a positive, constructive and in-depth discussion on the resolution of the remaining issues” along the LAC in the western sector. In line with “the guidance provided by the leadership, they exchanged views in an open and forward looking manner”, it added.However the report had a spin in the form of a negative heading: “No concrete breakthrough in India-China military talks on resolving Ladakh confrontation.” (Times of India, TNN Aug 16, 2023).
Misrepresentations and disinformation …about the “dragon”
( See the article Disinformation, a key instrument of India’s foreign policy in relation to China and Pakistan? ( 01/07/2023)
However, undermining all these efforts, the Indian media, steered by pro- Western lobbies, for the last few days, is once again agog with orchestrated stories, editorials, and tales about China’s alleged “aggression” and occupation along the LAC. Some moderated it as cartographic aggression. Jingoism is all the more vicious in TV channels, aided by doctored and manipulated visuals, accompanied by music, highlighting the fire-spitting dragon.
The media is oblivious of the fact that, unlike in Western and Christian traditions, in Chinese culture, the spirit of the dragon, despite thousands of years of changes, “ endured the test of time” and is “ full of unity, love and tolerance..is inclusive, an energetic force for humanity… representative of knowledge and wisdom.” Such a misrepresentation unfortunately has a lasting imprint on the gullible Indian minds.
This disinformation should be viewed together with curbing India’s own direct media presence in China, and then an inevitable retaliation by China. See article:
Indian people are forced to rely on Anglo-saxon media regarding China (24/06/2023)
It is all compounded by media’s rat race for TRP ratings, which are themselves manipulated to favor some channels. And aggravated by domestic politics, that go mad during elections, which in turn are perennial, going on in some or more states all the time. A polarized media serving various business and political vested interests complicates the scene all the more. Hence the need for de-cluttering the tales for which there is little space in MSM, or rather the big media, controlled by the Big Business.
Only media like countercurrents, committed to peace, to responsible and “honest and journalism, and answerable only to its readers”, dare to publish the sober, realistic and non-sensational stories.
US is building an Indo-Pacific Alliance, an Asian NATO, against China. That is the international context of the Chinese map
US Marines attend the opening ceremony of Super Garuda Shield 2023 in Baluran, East Java, Indonesia, Aug. 31, 2023.(AP Photo. US Indonesia and five other countries including UK and France, commenced, on August 31, massive, two-week long, military exercises, on Java island.
“ Commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific, Gen. Charles Flynn, said the 19 nations involved in the training are a powerful demonstration of multilateral solidarity to safeguard a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
“ China sees them as a threat, accuses the US is building an Indo-Pacific Alliance similar to NATO,” reported US magazine TIME (Aug 31,2023), and added “US is beefing up alliances across Asia” so as to contain China. India is participating as an observer in the US plus 18 exercise.
As is well-known Biden seeking re-election is betting on belligerence, including on Taiwan, which itself is going in for a crucial election. New laws were passed in USA on Taiwan, and additional military supplies are being made.Comments appeared in the West whether Biden is engaged in creating an Ukraine in Taiwan.
India too goes into elections, in several states, and later for Delhi. Modi is seeking a hat-trick, and the Opposition is going all out to thwart the bid. Thus the map issue has become a political foot-ball between parties.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, in his remarks on the map, went beyond India’s concerns, and betrayed India’s pro-US stance when he said…
“ China is making absurd claims, but that does not make other people’s territories theirs…China has even in the past put out maps which claimed the territories which are not China’s, which belong to other countries. This is an old habit of theirs.”
That is music to American ears, and jarring to China.
What is the reality? “ China has borders with 14 nations, and except for India, it has resolved its disputes with all, including Russia. India has borders with six countries, and excluding Bhutan, it has disputes with all five.” ( Subramanian Swamy, Sinologist, Ex-Union Minister, and BJP MP (Frontline 2000 Sep 2: Sino-Indian Relations Through the Tibet Prism). Similar statements were made by others too in India.
Jaishankar’s remarks are unwarranted because India officially upholds One China policy, does not recognize Taiwan as an independent, sovereign entity.The same is the case with the USA, the EU, and in fact more than 190 countries of the world. The imperialist Anglo-Saxon media however always refers to “Taiwan which China claims as it territory.” And Indian big media, servile to the west, is its Siamese twin.
The map incorporates Taiwan and a large part of the South China Sea, and the “nine-dash line” demarcating its claims in the South China Sea that are now at the centre of a turmoil instigated by USA, seeking to trump up an Asian Nato, and promoting Taiwan’s ”independence”. The QUAD led by USA, and including UK Japan and India, is meant to undermine and break China. Unsure of India’s active role, it also created a AUKUS, ie, QUAD minus India.
In one word, US seeks to make an Ukraine out of Taiwan, at a time Ukraine war is ruining the world economy and food security. India says it is neutral, favors peaceful resolution of Ukraine war. But jayshankar’s remarks are helping USA out to create another Ukraine.
The map showed Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as South Tibet, and Aksai Chin, always under Chinese possession, as part of China. It is nothing new as he said, representing their formal claim. The entire LAC, not a recognized international border, has been under endless discussions, whoever was at the helm.
India has repeatedly stated its claim that “Arunachal Pradesh was, is and will always remain an integral and inalienable part of India”. As Modi had said, post-Galwan 2020, they have their claims just as India has its claims, and not a single inch of India’s territory is under China’s occupation. Why this fuss now?
Taiwan elections, crucial in many respects, are due in January 2024
The map is significant in relation to Taiwan, the South China sea, which the US is turning into a new conflict zone. USA has been seeking to isolate China as part of its new cold war, is “de-coupling” – now modified into “de-risking”. There is a chip-war brewing. And Taiwan is at the centre of all this. Thus elections in Taiwan are crucial for all reasons.
China has been seeking unification with Taiwan, which is its main trading partner. More than 42% Taiwan’s exports go to China , from where Taiwan gets 22% of its imports. US comes next. Taiwan’s companies, biggest chip-maker Foxconn included, invested over 200 billion dollars in a total of over 44500 Chinese projects. Cross-strait trade between the two 273 billion dollars. (2021 data)
China sees Taiwan as part of its mainland and its integration with it is part of a vowed objective of China. Many believe it may be realized during President Xi Jinping’s tenure.
Taiwanese voters will do more than just choose their next president and legislature when they go to the polls in January 2024. They will help set the course for US-China relations for years to come…
Should the currently ruling DPP- Democratic Progressive Party, closer to the West, win, the US would retain a willing partner in its efforts to push back against China, and tensions could remain high.
The situation however is favorable to China, as per a report of washingtonpost.com, August 28, 2023:
“ A victory by the opposition Kuomintang party (KMT) or another party could de-escalate tensions, for a while at least. With a party charter that calls for eventual unification, the Kuomintang is China’s preferred negotiating partner.”
KMT (Kuomintang) , led by anti-Communist Chiang Kai-shek, was the ruling party for 70 years until the election in the year 2000, and again from 2008 to 2016, when DPP was elected. KMT is the party that presided over the construction of Taiwan (RoC) for decades. It has been increasingly keen to maintain good relations with China, the PRC.
“ The KMT candidate, capital Taipei City Mayor Hou Yu-ih, pledged to keep the peace with China… Hou has said he opposes Taiwanese independence, stating there’s no legal basis for it ..”
“Vice President Lai Ching-te is the ruling DPP candidate. The Harvard-educated physician once described himself as a “political worker for Taiwanese independence.” He’s toned that down as President Tsai Ing-wen’s deputy, however. Writing in the Wall Street Journal on July 4, he said he would “support the cross-strait status quo.”
“ Two other candidates are in the race: Tech billionaire Terry Gou, who founded the Foxconn Technology Group that helps supply Apple Inc. and Sony Group Corp., announced his entry in late August. He’s urged a restart in Taiwan-China talks and criticized Lai’s DPP. There’s also Taiwan People’s Party candidate Ko Wen-je, who has said the island should both hold talks and maintain a strong defense force.”
( It is in that context, the US efforts to manipulate in Taiwan assume significance.)
“ China increasingly sees the US as abrogating its “One China policy,” which has been the basis of relations since 1979. That’s when Washington recognized the Beijing-based People’s Republic as the “sole legal government of China” and ended formal diplomatic recognition of Taiwan….
“ While US officials say there is no change in policy, President Joe Biden has repeatedly said the US would come to the defense of Taiwan if it is attacked, breaking with a longtime stance known as strategic ambiguity.”
( bloomberg.com. August 28, 2023.)
Competitive Jingoism: From ranting in domestic politics, to irresponsible utterances in relation to foreign policy
Indian Army in July 2023 conducted big war exercises in Eastern Ladakh ( Times of India photo). An year earlier in June 2022 also, it conducted Exercise Blitzkrieg in Ladakh, close to LAC. “ It is amusing to learn,” commented Indian Express (June 27, 2022), that it was so named, meaning “a method of offensive warfare pioneered by Nazi Germany.”
Slandering matches and ranting are quite common in domestic politics, but increasingly and competitively irresponsible utterances are now seen in relation to foreign policy also, which in the past were supposed to be areas of unanimity, if not considered comments. While leaving for Karnataka, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said:
“I have been saying for years that what the PM said, that not one inch of land was lost in Ladakh, is a lie…The entire Ladakh knows that China has transgressed.. This map issue is very serious. They have taken away the land. PM should say something about it.”
( ANI, indianexpress.com, August 30, 2023) 12:35 IST
Rahul’s right-hand man, Congress MP Manish Tewari joined the chorus, and intensified the blame game: “ Analysts believe that the Chinese are currently in occupation of 2,000 square kilometres of Indian territory. This is the territory that the NDA-BJP government needs to get vacated.”
These leaders don’t bother to remember their own leaders, Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, had signed agreements to maintain peace and tranquility, to promote bilateral relations including trade, even while the LAC was under negotiations, that are kept going for decades without clinching a final deal. Even their own party colleagues don’t believe these remarks meant for the gallery.
Perhaps realizing the irresponsible remarks, a few hours later the same day, senior Congress leader, Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal stated the obvious: “We already know that the Aksai Chin has been under China for many years…That is not a new thing...China’s claim on some portions of Arunachal Pradesh is also not a new thing.”
He recalls it is all a normal game in the name of democracy: “When the PM was in opposition, he used to say that we should show ‘laal aankh’ (red eye) to China…But now it appears that the talks take place by sitting in the same swing,” he added.
Oppose US poking its nose in India-China relations
The threat is not from China. It is from US interference in what is strictly a bilateral dispute: We have noted in an earlier article how 70 smart villages are being “developed” by US, its agencies and NGOs. Arunachal CM had underplayed it, but Alice Wells, the Trump administration’s Assistant Secretary of State in-charge of South Asia, highlighted “resolute U.S. support for Indian sovereignty and commitment to local partnerships.”(theprint.in, 31 October, 2019). All this in a sensitive border district, a disputed part of “South Tibet” as China calls it. It smacks of QUAD.now Biden repeated the assurance. India should not allow any role for US, which is seeking to use the Tibet- Dalai Lama card, and now the Taiwan card.
Leaders of INDIA, the new non-BJP alliance, should realize the talk of a surgical strike would only benefit the Modi-led ruling party, as it did in the past in relation to Pakistan. They should choose some other issue to attack Modi as they are no match to Modi et al in raking up chauvinism.
“Traitors”, they blame each other
India’s Foreign Minister Jaishankar admitted: “It is not something which is new. It started in the 1950s…I think this (map) doesn’t change (anything). These are very much part of India.”
Then why all this big fuss, and blow up in the media? People now can see better how the ruling class parties are in a cut-throat rivalry, hitting each other below the belt. India-China conflict is being raked up and utilized by both sides for their narrow, electoral ends. BJP accused the Congress of taking funds, in 2005-06 , from China for the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF).
BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia’s attacked Congress. He said China captured over 43,000 sq km of Indian land when Nehru was PM and asked if Gandhi believed his great grandfather was a “traitor”. The term ‘gaddar’ (traitor) was used by Gandhi recently for those who “gave away a part of Bharat Mata” to China, the BJP leader noted.
“ Gandhi should disclose the details of the 2008 MoU signed between the Congress and the CCP, he said, alleging it has been claimed the agreement requires him to “spy” against India and to break to morale of Indian forces when they act decisively against the Chinese.”
Does this MoU also require to him to mock a prime minister, who is the protective shield for every citizen and has elevated India’s global stature, as “surrender Modi”,” Bhatia asked in a reference to Gandhi’s earlier barb at him.
( PTI, August 30, 2023 ).
All this was mere repetition of charges hurled at each other in 2020. On June 23, in that year, BJP Chief Nadda had likewise questioned the Congress on a MoU of August, 2008.
A PIL was also filed in the Supreme Court on June 24 , 2020, seeking directions to the NIA or CBI to investigate the 2008 agreement.
BJP’s Relations with China Communist Party are quite old and deep
A BJP delegation visited China between 26 August and 1 September, 2019, after Kashmir Bill was passed, and met CCP leaders. Photo: Arun Singh, BJP national secretary | Twitter. BJP had party-party relations with CCP since long.
BJP as Opposition party also, officially greeted, in 2012 November, CCP on its 18th Party Congress. Nitin Gadkari, then BJP president wrote: The BJP … “ congratulated the CCP, expressed its desire to maintain strong goodwill relations with China, appreciated the CCP’s steering of the people of China on the path of prosperity in the political, economic, social and cultural spheres, and commented that China had been enjoying global prestige and position in world affairs.. Many other parties, including Congress, also greeted.”
Despite his anti-communist RSS Ideology, veteran Sri Dattopant Tengadi (1920-2004), Founder of SJM (Swadeshi Jagran Manch and BMS) upon an invitation by China’s ruling party, had visited and studied China in 1985 (viswa samvad kendra, vsktelenagana.org,2017 Nov 11. swarjyamag.com also reported); he wrote and spoke appreciatively how they worked for their country and people. Modernization without westernization is one of his works, and he could see that practiced in China. Since then till now, a delegation of BMS has been a regular invited guest to China almost every year. BJP delegation in Beijing for a week-long tour of China.
It was not only Modi-led NDA government, but BJP too, that maintained relations with China and CCP, ..and that for decades. One was in August 2019, a few months after NDA-2 came to power and passed Kashmir Bill ..at that time, ahead of President Xi Jinping’s visit to India in October, an 11-member BJP delegation led by party general secretary Arun Singh visited China. (economictimes.com, Aug 27, 2019)
Such relations are common: The International Department of the CPC, said its Chief Song Tao, maintains regular contact with over 500 political parties and organizations of different types in more than 160 countries and regions. He disclosed that most foreign political parties are interested in how the CPC governs such a big country.(People’s Daily Online, 05, October 23, 2019). It is part of China’s diplomacy for peace and development.
People should not be fooled by chauvinist statements of the parties
What has changed in these few years? The change is not in China’s attitude. Old charges are hurled at each other by ruling class parties in India. Both sides are now currying favor with US hegemonists, harmful to India.
It was the Congress that sought to outdo BJP in jingoism, and now again it is repeating all that. The Congress party on Dec 18 (2020) accused PM Modi of “running away” from a debate in Parliament on LAC.. It also alleged that the PM does not utter the word “China” and asked whether the government was “silent” due to its “close ties” with that country. Rahul Gandhi said “the government was sleeping while China was preparing for war”.
Jingoism does not solve any problem. The chauvinist BJP can not be beaten by Congress or INDIA with such politics.
The moral is : people should not be fooled by chauvinist statements of these parties, played up by irresponsible media. Both countries and peoples have something to learn from each other, so as to turn this 21st century as Asian century, and counter the unipolar pressures of American hegemony.
What is needed is to unite India to counter US attempts to force the country join its global hegemonic project to trump up a an Asian Nato aimed at China. That will only aggravate India’s problems. All the election parties should be asked whether they would serve USA or Indian interests. They should oppose subordinating India to imperialists, US in particular. They should adopt independent foreign policies. Otherwise 75 years of independence, Amritotsav, will be sham.
(The author is a political observer who frequently contributed to countercurrents.)
See series of articles in CC on the subject including recent ones..
India China Border Dispute: Some Myths (03/01/2023)
Modi’s precept “this is not an era of war,” should be applied to China and Pakistan as well : Normalization, not chauvinism, is the need of the hour (09/01/2023)