The Chinese world of make believe

Time perhaps has come to alter course. India needs to exploit chinks in the Chinese armour.

By Prashant Dikshit

A historical study published in strategic analyses journal of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses is unequivocal in recounting that since 1950 onwards the Chinese proclamation for claiming nearly 50,000 Square Miles of Indian Territory was based on non – official and privately published maps, known as Shin Pao maps. These maps were published during the previous regime when China was known as the Republic of China ( ROC) during 1912 to 1949. In fact, it was only in 1956 the People’s Republic of China’s State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping was established dedicated towards these tasks.

The story of Shin Pao had begun in 1933 with the release of its first edition – A Provincial Atlas of China , in Chinese Characters named after its publisher Shin Pao a Shanghai based daily newspaper that is said to have funded the project . The newspaper had sponsored the project under the direction of one Chinese Board of Direction for Education and Literature as a “reference work in schools”. The Shin Pao Atlases came out in 1934, 1935 and 1939 respectively but they were never recognized as official publications. The premises of the Geological Surveys were used for producing these Atlases and their Directors merely lent their names as authors. The purported authors of these documents were trained as Geologists and for them cartography and mapmaking was an alien discipline. Although one of them rose to become the executive chairperson of National Defence Planning Commission of China

There is a large mass of data to conclude that the actual author of these maps was a Swedish Explorer and mapmaker named Sven Hedin who produced these documents along with Chinese Staff’s Secret Map of China ( 1918) and Sun Yat –sen’s Map of China (1920). Sun Yat-sen was China’s first president.

It is Hedin’s persona which is now very relevant to our understanding. He was deeply seeped in fascist philosophies being nurtured in Germany of those times and was deeply anguished with the defeat of his country during World War I. He had publicly named the British as enemies of Germanic races. He had kept company with Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany during the war and subsequently had remained in touch with Hitler’s Nazi Regime

It was thus his revenge and map making was his instrument. In his explorations he had assiduously conjured up surveys in Sinkiang, Tibet and Aksai Chin over a period of seven and half years and integrated his work with British Surveyors in interpreting their recordings as territory available for picking. He was aware of the ambiguity in the depiction of India’s northern frontier on Survey of India maps in which the legend for western sector had read Frontier Undefined and in the Eastern Sector as Frontier Un-demarcated. He had as far back in 1906 had noted, “We are now in a country belonging to the un-annexed region Aksai Chin in north – west Tibet (plateau). Or tell me what Power this land belongs to. Does the Maharaja of Kashmir lay claim to it, or the Dalai Lama, or is it a part of Turkestan (Sinkiang). No boundaries are marked on the map and one looks in vain boundary stones”. He had also noted the early Survey of India maps were very sketchy in depicting what is now universally known as the Karakoram Region , the Galavan Valley , Demchok regions and the Pangong Tso . The forces of the People’s Liberation Army are entrenched at these locations currently.

It is merely not that there was inadequacy in survey mechanisms during the Manchu regimes , the predecessor of the ROC. But their maps were confined to Chinese neighborhoods in which territories belonging to the Mongols, Uighurs, Kazaks , Tajiks and others were annexed in Military campaigns and were under suzerainty of the regime in Peking.

The maps made by Hedin and incorporated in Shin Pao on the other hand were all pervasive potent cartographic aggressions without any physical presence. But they emerged as the most powerful tool for blatant aggression. “In retrospect, Hedin’s aim of leaving a sting in the tail for India appears to have been accomplished.” No doubt Hedin was bestowed with honours by both the regimes in Berlin and in Peking. Had Hitler survived perhaps we would have seen new equally sinister activity in the regions in torment.

Apparently a series of Indian regimes in power have not been able to puncture the Chinese designs in make believe and move forward despite the conundrum. Many times one gets to read or hear criticisms being heaped on Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru on his blinkered approach in reading the Chinese mind. But Pandit ji passed away in 1964, nearly six decades ago and what have we done since then? In fact we have been entertaining the Chinese leaders despite the current transgression, which is not of our making.

In the midst of the conundrum there is an equally perplexing advice from a previous Indian Foreign Secretary that “ India should presume that China negotiates to deceive”. And this coming from a person who was considered an authority on Chinese Affairs and who served as India’s ambassador to China!! One is only left to wonder whether he had shared his perceptions with his political masters.

Time perhaps has come to alter course. India needs to exploit chinks in the Chinese armour. It should lend its total weight in the call for demanding a complete forensic probe into the alleged non- reporting of the Corona and especially the role played by Chinese regime in spreading the pandemic globally by unleashing the virus prepared in PLA owned labs in Wuhan.

(The author is an Independent Strategic Affairs Commentator. He can be reached at: [email protected](dot)com Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)

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