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China’s Renaming of Areas in Arunachal Pradesh


India rejected China renaming places in Arunachal Pradesh. India’s Ministry of External Affairs categorically stated that “Arunachal Pradesh is, has been, and will always” be an integral part of India.


GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Border Disputes, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Chinese claim over Arunachal Pradesh
  2. India and Arunachal Pradesh
  3. Why Arunachal Pradesh? What is China’s Interest in Arunachal Pradesh?
  4. Renaming places lowers ties between India and China
  5. What could be the factors behind such move?
  6. Conclusion

Chinese claim over Arunachal Pradesh

  • When the new Peoples Republic of China was formed in February 1912 after the abdication of the Qing emperor, the Tibetans asserted their independence.
  • They forced the Chinese troops based in Lhasa to return to the mainland-via India. A year later, Tibet declared independence from China.
  • In order to ensure that the unrest did not spread to India and assert their boundaries, the ruling British convened a tripartite meeting at Shimla with Tibetan and Chinese delegates to define the border.
  • The meeting gave China suzerainty over most of Tibet, and the boundary defined in this treaty was later known as the McMohan line.
  • The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that China’s “position on Zangnan or South Tibet, as China refers to Arunachal] region is consistent and clear. We never recognised the so-called Arunachal Pradesh.”

India and Arunachal Pradesh

  • Arunachal Pradesh (called South Tibet in China) is a full-fledged state of India.
  • India’s sovereignty over the area is internationally recognized and its residents have not shown any inclination to leave India.
  • The majority of the international maps acknowledge the area to be an Indian Territory.
  • China has some (pre-) historical claims through its ownership of Tibet, but the people and geography primarily favour India.

Why Arunachal Pradesh? What is China’s Interest In Arunachal Pradesh?

  • Arunachal Pradesh known as the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) until 1972, is the largest state in the northeast and shares international borders with to the north and northwest, Bhutan towards the west and Myanmar to the east.
  • The state is like a protective shield to the northeast.
  • However, China claims Arunachal Pradesh as a part of southern Tibet.
  • And while China may lay claim to the entire state, its main interest lies in the district of Tawang, which is in the north-western region of Arunachal and orders Bhutan and Tibet. China’s interest in Tawang could be for tactical reasons as it provides a strategic entry into India’s northeastern region.
  • Tawang is a critical point in the corridor between Tibet and Brahmaputra Valley.

Tawang monastery issue

  • Besides Tawang also hosts the Tawang Ganden Namgyal Lhatse (Tawang Monastery), which is the second largest monastery of Tibetan Buddhism in the world.
  • The monastery was founded by Merag Lodroe Gyamtso in the year 1680-81 to honor the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama.
  • China claims that the monastery is evidence that the district once belonged to Tibet. They cite historical ties between the Tawang monastery and the Lhasa monastery in Tibet to support their claim over Arunachal.
  • This despite the fact that the 1914 Simla convention, which included a Chinese representative on an equal footing with a Tibetan representative, gave birth to the McMahon Line separating Tibet from India in the eastern sector. It clearly defined the frontiers of the boundary between India and Tibet.

Cultural connections and China’s anxieties

  • Tawang is an important center of Tibetan Buddhism. There are some tribes in the upper Arunachal region which have cultural connections to the people of Tibet. The Monpa tribal population practices Tibetan Buddhism and are also found in some areas of Tibet.
  • According to some experts, China fears that the presence of these ethnic groups in Arunachal could at some stage give rise to a pro-democracy Tibetan movement against Beijing.

Political significance

  • When the Dalai Lama escaped Tibet in 1959 amid China crackdown, he entered India through Tawang and stayed in the Tawang monastery for some time.

The Bhutan factor

  • If Beijing were to gain control of Arunachal, it would mean that the kingdom of Bhutan would have China as its neighbour on both the western and eastern borders.

Infrastructure investments

  • China has already engaged in massive construction of motorable roads to connect strategic points on Bhutan’s western side. According to reports, China wants to extend its roads from Doka La to Gamochin, which is under the guard of the Indian army. China’s efforts to move closer to the Siliguri corridor is a security threat for both India and Bhutan.
  • What’s more, China is expanding its network of railway lines in the region which could give its military a huge advantage.

Strategic location of Arunachal Pradesh

  • Arunachal’s strategic location Arunachal Pradesh is the closest location for India to target China with missiles. Also, Arunachal is the best location for
  • India to deploy a multi-layered air defence system for possible attacks from China. Thus, control over Arunachal will give China a strategic advantage.

Water power

  • We all know China has control over India’s water supply to the northeastern region. It has constructed several dams and can use water as a geo-strategic weapon against India by causing flooding or drought in the region.
  • The Tsangpo river, which originates in Tibet, flows into India and is called Siang in Arunachal Pradesh before it becomes the Brahmaputra.

Renaming places lowers ties between India and China:

  • China has recently attempted to rename 11 places in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs said it would “standardise” 11 place names in what China calls “South Tibet or Zangnan”, an area consistently controlled by India.
  • India has summarily rejected China’s attempt to lay claim over areas of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • It is China’s third list since 2017.
  • It is seen as a deliberate affront to India’s territorial sovereignty.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs statement, that “invented names” will not alter the reality that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India, mirrors what India had said in 2021 when China “renamed” 15 places.
  • Previous attempts to rename places:
    • In 2017:
      • The move to rename places in Arunachal Pradesh in 2017was seen as retaliation after the Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang.
      • In 2017, there were six names.
    • In 2021:
      • In 2021, the move followed China’s new “Land and State Border Law”, that virtually authorised the government to reclaim territories claimed by China.
      • It was seen as a way to reassert its claim over the State as a whole.

What could be the factors behind such move?

  • Indian Army Thwarted attempt by China’s PLA to transgress LAC:
    • The Indian Army rebuffed a PLA attempt to take over a post at Yangtse in the Tawang sector of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in December 2022.
  • G20 meeting in Itanagar:
    • New Delhi’s decision to hold a G20 engagement group meeting on Innovation technology in Itanagar was boycotted by the Chinese embassy had boycotted.
  • Lack of meaningful dialogue:
    • The move by Chinese also reflects deteriorating ties and and the lack of meaningful dialogue for three years since the amassing of Chinese troops at the LAC in 2020 and transgressions that have led to scuffles, including the deadly encounter at Galwan.
    • Though many talk have been held and there has been disengagement at some standoff points, political relations have not been resumed.


Although the Government counters China’s false narrative and a renaming of areas that are firmly within India’s boundaries, it will be hard to prepare for a future course of action if it does not probe the reasons behind China’s moves and the motivation for its persistent aggressions.

February 2024