Chinese Territorial Claims on Indian Territory in the Context of Its Surveying and Mapping, 1708-1960

Sunil Khatri is a former Indian civil servant. The views expressed are personal.
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  • March 2021

    The article aims to trace the surveying and mapping of China during the 252-year period, prior to 1960 in order to connect it with the evolution of the Sino-Indian boundary. What emerges is that the Manchu was dependent on foreigners for the first modern maps of China made to scale with longitude/latitude lines. Through these maps no territorial claim against India had been made. During the Republican period two non-official privately published maps (1920 and 1933) emerged with an identically redrawn Sino-Indian boundary alignment not supported by the alignment depicted either on the inherited Manchu maps or the official maps of that period. Reference to a third unpublished secret official map (1918) stated to having a similar boundary alignment surfaced forty-two years later. No evidence is forthcoming to suggest and corroborate that surveys had preceded the preparation of these maps. They appear to be the handiwork of an Anglophobic Swedish explorer with an axe to grind against Britain and India. The PRC’s maps are not based on official maps inherited by it but on the non-official privately published map (1933). The first dedicated surveying institution in China was established only in 1956.