On Sunday, the Chinese government made a move to assert its territorial claims by declaring that it would "standardise" the names of 11 places inside Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh.
The Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs released a list of the affected places and a map that shows parts of Arunachal Pradesh as being part of southern Tibet, which China refers to as "Zangnan". Curiously, the list includes a town near the Indian capital of Itanagar.
This is Beijing's third list of "standardised geographical names" aiming to rename places in Arunachal Pradesh. The Chinese Ministry of Civilian Affairs had released a similar list of six places in 2017, and a new list of 15 places to rename was issued in December 2021.
The list includes 11 places, written in Mandarin, Tibetan and Pinyin (English transliteration), including their exact Latitude and Longitude coordinates.
Five mountain peaks, two populated areas, two land areas and two rivers were 're-named'.
However, India has always controlled and administered the geographical area where these 11 places are located, which is Arunachal Pradesh.
MEA did not comment on Beijing's renaming announcement. It has previously rejected standardisation attempts.
A spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, affirmed in 2021 that Arunachal Pradesh is an indispensable part of India and that labeling places in the area with fabricated names does not change this fact. Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry in 2017 and 2021 declared that China's territorial assertions in what they call the "Zangnan region" had historical justifications.
The renaming of disputed sites is seen as an effort by China to strengthen its territorial claims and preempt possible sovereignty disputes in international courts. This move, however, is unlikely to have any significant impact on the ground. China has employed similar tactics in the South and East China Seas, as it has in Arunachal Pradesh.
China's newly appointed Defense Minister General Li Shangfu is expected to attend the SCO Defense Ministers' meetings during his visit to India this month. Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang will also attend the SCO Foreign Ministers' meeting in May.
India has bolstered its military strength in Arunachal Pradesh in recent years, with a particular focus on the Tawang sector, following the 2020 conflict in eastern Ladakh.
The nation has also increased infrastructure development in forward areas of the region, and is carrying out significant infrastructure upgrades in eastern Arunachal.
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