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New Delhi: After China announced ‘standardised’ names for 15 places in Arunachal Pradesh, India on Thursday asserted that assigning “invented names” does not alter the facts on the ground.
On Thursday, the Global Times reported that China’s ministry of civil affairs had announced standardised names in Chinese characters, Tibetan and Roman alphabet for 15 places in ‘Zangnan’ (or South Tibet), Beijing’s term for Arunachal Pradesh. Eight of the names are for inhabited areas, four are for mountains, two for rivers and a mountain pass.
“Arunachal Pradesh has always been, and will always be an integral part of India,” Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, adding that “assigning invented names to places in Arunachal Pradesh does not alter this fact”.
He also noted that this was not the first time China attempted to rename places in Arunachal Pradesh. China had for the first time assigned Chinese names in Arunachal Pradesh in April 2017, just after the Dalai Lama’s visit to the state.
The latest move comes ahead of China’s new border law – passed in October this year – coming into effect from January 1, 2022.
India had expressed concern that “China’s unilateral decision” to promulgate the new border law could have “implications on our existing bilateral arrangements on border management”.
“We also expect that China will avoid undertaking action under the pretext of this law which could unilaterally alter the situation in the India-China border areas,” Bagchi had said on October 27.
The latest action by China comes against the backdrop of the ongoing stand-off between India and China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh in May 2020. Over a dozen Indian and Chinese soldiers died in a violent hand-to-hand clash in Galwan valley in June 2020, the first casualties at the border in over four decades.
While a couple of friction points have seen de-escalation from both sides, Indian and Chinese troops continue to face each other in other stand-off points in eastern Ladakh.
Meanwhile, Indian army officials and satellite imagery have confirmed that Chinese forces have also increased their strength in “operational depth” areas along the Arunachal border.
“Our monitoring shows a PLA [ground forces] armour presence at Gyantse and armour elements remaining deployed near Gamba. HawkEye 360 began detecting radio frequency activity at Gamba in August 2020 when we first discovered a new deployment east of the area’s field garrison,” geospatial intelligence expert Chris Biggers told India Cable.