Restoring historical names in Tibet: Can India really show the mirror to China?

If NDA 3.0 wanted to show assertiveness to China, why were representatives of the Central Tibet Administration not invited for the osth-taking ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan on June 9, as they were invited in 2014 for the swearing-in of the then new NDA government.


India has recently renamed 30 locations in Tibet, by restoring their historical names. This move comes after China gave Chinese names to several places in Arunachal Pradesh, which it refers as Zangran or ‘South Tibet’; in line with China’s policy of ‘legal warfare’ for supporting illegal claims by distorting history. Moreover, ‘Creating Something out of Nothing’ is one of the 36 stratagems of ancient China, which advocates using a false front, not to deceive the enemy, but to make what is false seem real.

Our media has termed the Indian move as “Tit-for-Tat”, “India’s Counter Offensive”, “India Boldly Rattles China”, “Rise of Assertive India” and the like. But the issue needs closer examination; why the Indian action, its timing and its contribution to the measure of India’s assertiveness.   

In April 2024, Beijing issued another list of Chinese names for 30 places in Arunachal Pradesh, which China illegally claims as ‘Zangran’ or ‘South Tibet’. This was the fourth such list, with the first three having been released in 2017, 2021 and 2023. Beijing issued the recent list after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the Sela Tunnel to the nation virtually from Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh, on March 9, 2024.

Why renaming now 

Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had then rejected these ‘antics’ and said that just by renaming some locations the region does not become Chinese. Media announcements are fine but did the External Affairs Ministry summon China’s ambassador/officiating ambassador in 2017, 2021, 2023 and April 2024 to issue a demarche? How important Beijing views India is evident from the fact that no Chinese ambassador was posted at New Delhi between July 2023 and May 2024.  

In response to Beijing giving Chinese names to 30 “more” places in Arunachal Pradesh in April this year, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma suggested India should also rename 30 places in Tibet. Tibet was an independent country earlier and no research was required to find out historical names of places in Tibet – why 30 names, complete list historical names, could have been obtained from the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, also termed Central Tibet Administration.    

India did not restore historical names of places in Tibet in retaliation to China giving Chinese names to places in Arunachal Pradesh in 2017, 2021 and 2023 under NDA governments led by Prime Minister Modi. The renaming action now instead of in April 2024 is because NDA 3.0 wants to show a semblance of ‘standing up to China’. Analysts view this diverting from allowing China to become India’s top trading partner, paying China US$100 billion annually through bilateral trade and ‘implications’ of China redrawing the Line of Control (LAC) in Ladakh in 2020 (

If NDA 3.0 wanted to show assertiveness to China, why were representatives of the Central Tibet Administration not invited for the osth-taking ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan on June 9, as they were invited in 2014 for the swearing-in of the then new NDA government. In fact when Chinese President Xi Jinping first visited India, Tibetan protesters held demonstrations outside Hyderabad House in New Delhi while Modi-Xi held discussions inside. So how does one rate India’s “assertiveness” vis-a-vis 2014 and now?

If India really wants to show the mirror to China, it must take the following actions:

·Officially tell China that India no longer supports ‘One China’ policy (accepted by PM Vajpayee in 2003) because China doesn’t support ‘One India’, illegally claims Indian Territories, resorts to salami-slicing and has backstabbed India by establishing the CPEC.  

·All official correspondence and maps to show Tibet as China occupied Tibet (COT). Publish official maps of COT restoring all historical names – not of only 30 places.

·Publish official maps of China, showing what foreign territories it occupied after the communist takeover. This is warranted more after the SCO Conference at Uzbekistan attended by Modi and Xi in September 2022 where China distributed maps of India showing Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh part of China and J&K part of Pakistan.

·Establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan saying review will be done if at all the status of Taiwan changes as an independent nation. This would be apt quid-pro-quo to China occupying Shaksgam Valley in 1963 saying the final decision will be taken when final  ownership of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) is clear. This is more essential since China has established military posts in Shaksgam valley (5180 sq km) and is constructing a road linking    Muzaffarabad in POK to Mustagh Pass astride Pakistan border with Shaksgam Valley, which would be linked to Yarkand in Xinjiang possibly passing through the Shaksgam Valley to connect with China’s national highway G219.

The EAM and the External Affairs Ministry MEA) should establish periodic interaction with the Tibet Central Administration.

Finally, the question is can the Modi-led NDA 3.0 develop the spine to show China “real” assertiveness as above?

(The author is an Indian Army veteran. Views are personal)

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Deepak Adyanthaya
Wed, 06/19/2024 - 10:14
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