India lodges ‘strong protest’ with China over new map; ‘absurd claims’, says External Affairs Minister

Differences over the new map mar bilateral relations further, days after Xi-Modi meeting and ahead of G-20 summit in Delhi; the map also lays claim to the entire South China Sea, Taiwan

August 29, 2023 09:00 pm | Updated August 30, 2023 09:54 am IST - NEW DELHI

An Indian Army jawan sits inside an upgraded L70 anti aircraft gun in Tawang, near the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh. File

An Indian Army jawan sits inside an upgraded L70 anti aircraft gun in Tawang, near the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh. File | Photo Credit: AFP

India on Tuesday lodged a “strong protest” with China over the publication of a new map that was released by the Chinese government on August 28, showing all of Arunachal Pradesh, Aksai Chin, and other parts of Indian territory within its borders, that External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar called “absurd claims”. The map, that has in the past claimed Indian territories as well, was published just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and discussed resolving the boundary situation. 

“We reject these claims as they have no basis. Such steps by the Chinese side only complicate the resolution of the boundary question,” said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson in a statement, responding to media queries. The spokesperson said that India has lodged “a strong protest through diplomatic channels” with the Chinese side on the so-called 2023 “standard map” that was released by the Chinese Ministry of Natural Resources. According to Chinese state media, the map was released during what is being called “National Mapping Awareness Publicity Week” in China, and would be followed by other digital and navigational maps.

The publication of the map was met with outrage by experts on social media, and criticised by the Opposition Congress party. Speaking to NDTV, Mr. Jaishankar, who served as Ambassador to China (2009 to 2013) said that this was an “old habit” of the Chinese government. 

“Just by putting out maps with parts of India... this doesn’t change in anything. Our government is very clear about what our territory is. Making absurd claims does not make other people’s territories yours,” Mr. Jaishankar said on Tuesday.

As The Hindu had reported, the map that India has objected to also lays claim to the entire South China Sea and Taiwan, all of which are the subject of disputes between China and its neighbours in South East Asia. 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, which Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to attend, along with nearly all other G-20 leaders other than Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has conveyed his inability to attend. Mr. Xi is also invited to Indonesia for the East Asia Summit and ASEAN meetings, where Prime Minister Modi is expected to travel as well. 

Last week, Delhi and Beijing had issued conflicting readouts from the informal meeting between the two leaders that took place at the Leaders Lounge during the BRICS summit in South Africa, indicating that while the two countries are seeking to resolve the LAC military stand-off through talks, there are still wide differences in their positions. While the MEA said that Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi had directed officials to resolve the LAC situation through “expeditious” disengagement and de-escalation, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs merely said that Mr. Xi had stressed the importance of improving relations.

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