China Renames Locations in India to Erase Indigenous Community

NEW DELHI, INDIA - DECEMBER 14: Activists of Indo-Tibetan Cooperation Forum protest agains
Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

The Indian government on Tuesday angrily rejected China’s attempt to change the names of eleven locations in the Indian province of Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing has been trying to seize.

China calls Arunachal Pradesh “Zangnan” and claims it is “the southern part of Tibet,” an occupied nation whose identity China is trying to erase by changing the ancient names chosen by indigenous residents.

“This is not the first time China has made such an attempt. We reject this outright,” said Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Arindam Bagchi in a Tuesday post on Twitter.

“Arunachal Pradesh is, has been, and will always be an integral and alienable part of India. Attempts to assign invented names will not alter this reality,” Bagchi vowed.

The renaming India objected to was issued by the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs on Sunday. The bulletin listed the precise coordinates of various mountains, rivers, and land areas with new “standardized” names issued by the State Council of the Chinese Communist Party.

BBC noted that China’s first effort to rename locations in Arunachal Pradesh occurred in 2017 and may have been conceived as an act of “retaliation” for a visit to the area by Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. China tried again last December with new names for 15 locations in the area, a proclamation the Indian government vigorously rejected.

Chinese soldiers have pushed into the Arunachal Pradesh region several times, most recently in December, when Indian soldiers repelled a force of several hundred Chinese troops in hand-to-hand combat. Last month, U.S. News and World Report quoted sources who said American intelligence helped India intercept and defeat the Chinese invasion force.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning insisted on Tuesday that Arunachal Pradesh should be called “Zangnan” and is “part of China’s territory.” She insisted it was within “China’s sovereign rights” to change the names of locations it owns.

China’s state-run Global Times likewise claimed “Zangnan” has been “China’s territory since ancient times,” and it was important for Beijing to assert control by renaming its mountains and rivers.

The Global Times insisted this act of Communist Party vandalism was conducted with due “respect for ethnic culture in accordance with the law” because the new names were “written both in standard Chinese characters and Tibetan.”

“Beijing also claims 2,000 sq km of area in the Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand states of India. New Delhi claims that China is illegally occupying about 38,000 sq km of India’s territory in Aksai Chin, which borders eastern Ladakh,” the Deccan Herald noted on Monday.


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