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China renames 6 places in Arunachal Pradesh after Dalai Lama's visit

China has unilaterally renamed six places in Arunachal Pradesh in standard Chinese in what is being seen as the first sign of retaliation against the 14th Dalai Lama’s visit to India’s easternmost state earlier this month.

The names were changed to show to India the “sovereignty” of the region, said the Chinese state media, which on several occasions warned India of consequences for allowing the Tibetan spiritual leader to visit the “disputed area”.

“China has standardised the names of six places in South Tibet, a region that is part of China’s territory but in which some areas are currently controlled by India,” a state media report said on Tuesday.

Beijing claims large parts of the Northeaster state as South Tibet, with close Buddhist links to the Tibet Autonomous Region and calls the Dharamsala-based Dalai Lama a separatist out to carve an independent Tibet within Chinese mainland.

Official Chinese maps show the state as part of south Tibet. “The official names of the six places using the Roman alphabet are Wo’gyainling, Mila Ri, Qoidêngarbo Ri, Mainquka, Bümo La and Namkapub Ri,” the report said.

The changes were implemented on April 13, a day after the Dalai Lama ended his nine-day tour of Arunachal. Changing the names could be an indication of China hardening its stand and claims on Arunchal Pradesh, especially Tawang.

The ministry of civil affairs announced on April 13 on its website it had standardised in Chinese characters, Tibetan and Roman alphabet the names of six places in “South Tibet”, “which India calls ‘Arunachal Pradesh’ ”, according to the regulations of the state council on place names, the Global Times, the nationalistic tabloid, said in a report.

China did not have official names for some “South Tibet” areas but now it had a better understanding and recognition of the geography, including the names of areas in the region, Xiong Kunxin from Beijing’s Minzu University of China told the newspaper.

The renaming of these places demonstrate China’s territorial sovereignty to India, Xiong said, adding legalisation of the regions’ names was a part of the rule of law.

“South Tibet region is located alongside China’s southwestern border and India’s northeastern border where Sino-India border disputes are centred,” the report said.

The Chinese government has never recognised Arunachal Pradesh, it added.

“In 1987, India abruptly announced that it was officially designating the region as ‘Arunachal Pradesh’ but the Chinese government has never recognized India’s occupation of the region, nor the legitimacy of the province.”

In a sharp response to Dalai Lama’s visit last week, foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang, too, had made the point. “I said the Dalai Lama is visiting the disputed eastern section of the China-India boundary. It is not Indian territory,” she had said.