Beijing intends to teach India a lesson for refusing normalization of relations until boundary disputes are resolved by issuing the so-called standard map of China.
On the eve of India’s hosting of the G20 summit in New Delhi, China produced a so-called “standard map” that includes sections of eastern Ladakh as per the disputed 1959 line and Arunachal Pradesh in the Middle Kingdom, in addition to Taiwan and the South China Sea.
The Modi government immediately rebutted and rejected Beijing’s cartographic expansion, which was amplified by Chinese propaganda on social media, because Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India and parts of Aksai Chin were occupied by Mao’s China in the 1950s, even before the disastrous 1962 war. While India was signing the Panchsheel Agreement in 1954, China was constructing a motorway across Aksai Chin connecting occupied Tibet with occupied Sinkiang (named Xinjiang), with the then-government unaware to the facts.
The timing of China’s publishing of the map plainly has foreboding implications, as it raises serious doubts about whether President Xi Jinping intends to attend the G20 conference in the Indian capital or has alternative plans. According to reports, China publishes the same map every year, but this is the first time India has registered a significant objection with Beijing, challenging the Middle Kingdom’s territorial claims.
The bigger question is: why did Beijing publish the ostensible standard map and have its propaganda media spread it via social media platforms? The recent BRICS conference in Johannesburg, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi briefly spoke with President Xi Jinping in the leaders’ lounge, may hold the key to the solution.
It is believed that China sought to meet with India privately outside of the summit in order to push for restoration of relations without making any concessions about the unresolved issues of the Depsang Bulge and Demchok in Eastern Ladakh. The formal meeting between the two leaders could not take place due to PM Modi’s schedule constraints, and was instead restricted to a brief interaction. Even in the brief exchange, PM Modi expressed his concerns over the border situation, making it clear that the only way to normalize relations is by detachment and de-escalation on the East Ladakh border and resolution of the two remaining grounds of contention.