Following the Dalai Lama’s controversial visit earlier this month to Arunachal Pradesh, a disputed border region in the Himalayas that is controlled by India, China has taken the step of “standardizing” the names of six districts in the region, reinforcing its claim over the state it calls “South Tibet.”
The 81-year-old spiritual leader spent part of last week in the region’s spiritually significant town of Tawang, located about 50km south of the McMahon Line which separates India and Tibet — though China stills claims this land as its own due to the region’s close connections with the Tibet Autonomous Region. The Tibetan town was the 14th Dalai Lama’s first stop after fleeing Lhasa in 1959, and was also the home of the 6th Dalai Lama. Locals are hoping that it will eventually become the birthplace of the 15th Dalai Lama as well.
Prior to the Dalai Lama’s visit, China lodged a diplomatic protest and warned the Indian government about the “negative impact” that the trip would have on bilateral relations. Many believe that His Holiness was sending a message to China with his Tawang visit, showing Beijing that his next reincarnation could be born outside of its control.
China has responded with a message of its own. On Tuesday, Chinese state media reported that China had “standardized the names of six places in South Tibet, a region that is part of China’s territory.” The changes were officially made last week, a day after the Dalai Lama left the region.
On Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said that the name changes were “a legitimate action by the Chinese government” which “reflect from another side that China’s territorial claim over South Tibet is supported by clear evidence in terms of history, culture and administration.” 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.”
In case you’re curious, here are the new names: Wo’gyainling, Mila Ri, Qoidêngarbo Ri, Mainquka, Bümo La and Namkapub Ri.
India has not yet responded to the Chinese government’s announcement, perhaps still a bit peeved for having its role in the rescue of a hijacked ship in the Gulf of Aden overlooked.
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