China has announced its own names for six places in Arunachal Pradesh in what appears to be retaliation to Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama visiting the state recently.
"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 now controlled by India", a state media report said on Tuesday.
China called its move to issue Chinese names for Arunachal Pradesh towns "legitimate". "It is not Indian territory", she had said.
The standardisation of Chinese names for six places in Arunachal Pradesh is a legitimate action, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at a briefing. It did not give the existing names of the six towns in Arunachal Pradesh, but Bumo La could be BumLa, an area that was captured by China in 1962 but from which it later withdrew. Official Chinese maps show the state as part of south Tibet.
The new names will be shown in the worldwide diplomatic arena as proof of China's claims, informed sources said. The 14th Dalai Lama, the current Tibetan spiritual head, had visited the monastery on April 9. India has, in recent months, boosted the defences in Arunachal Pradesh. The changes were officially made last week, a day after the Dalai Lama left the region.
Xiong Kunxin, a professor of ethnic studies at the Minzu University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times: "The standardization came amid China's growing understanding and recognition of the geography in South Tibet. We have released the first batch of the place names in South Tibet (six in total)", said the announcement.
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What is likely to happen is that India and China may get into a cartographic battle if China forces global institutions and websites and search engines to use the Chinese words.
During the Dalai Lama's Arunachal Pradesh visit, China had warned India that it will take "necessary measures" to defend its territorial sovereignty and interests.
The order to issue standardised names was issued on April 14. Lu explained that the names had been "passed on from generation to generation by people who lived there for generations, the Tibetan ethnic and Monpa ethnic groups", but China had only just now got around to using them as part of an ongoing "second census of names and localities". China claims the state as "South Tibet".
Asserting that the move is legitimate and appropriate, Kang further stated that these names are passed down by ethnic minority groups who have always been living and working in the region, and they have been calling these places as such for generations.
The Chinese government has never recognised Arunachal Pradesh, it said.