The Economist can’t decide where Sikkim belongs?

Is there a method to its cartographical inconsistency?

In defence of its editorial policy on the maps it publishes alongside its articles, in September 2007 the Economist wrote “we use maps not to portray the world as it ought to be, or even as we would like it to be, but as it is.” Reassuring readers that it bore no malice about its maps of Jammu & Kashmir, it wrote “in using “the line of control” that divides Kashmir in the absence of an agreed international frontier we are merely noting the status quo, not endorsing it.”

So let’s look at its maps of the India-China border.

The most informative of the maps of the border regions came in May 1999 (although giving India and China the same colour allows a degree of chickening out, as Sikkim is both marked out but not coloured as being disputed)

Courtesy: The Economist

Maps from June and July 2003 are consistent with the Economist’s own stated policy: they note the status quo.

Courtesy: The EconomistCourtesy: The Economist

Its special annual publication, the World in 2007, published in late 2006, reported that “China now recognises the Himalayan state of Sikkim as India’s territory”. The accompanying map reflected this position.

And now in March 2008, the we find a change in the ‘status quo’: the Indian state of Sikkim has been painted in Chinese colours.

Courtesy: The Economist

Now unless the Economist knows something about the status quo that it is not letting on, it has clearly run foul of its own policy. If there is no cartographical conspiracy here, then is the Economist—unconsciously or otherwise—being a little too eager to please Beijing?

9 thoughts on “The Economist can’t decide where Sikkim belongs?”

  1. I stated that the mag is more aptly termed The Jerkonomist, and I stand by that statement.

  2. I’m writing the Economist to protest. Whatever our individual opinions of the rag – it’s pretty influential, and must not be allowed to err consciously or otherwise.

  3. Who cares? This ‘dispute’ is unlikely to result in conflict. Both these countries have their economies to worry about. The key for India is to play the Tibet card well enough. This I presume we would have, going by the way our ambassador was summoned in the dead of the night.

    Businessmen who want a piece of the India story couldn’t care less so long as there’s no war. No government worth its salt changes its policy towards a major country just because of something written in a magazine, no matter how ‘influential’ it is. As far as I’m concerned these are the only groups that matter to us.

    The best course is to ignore stuff like this.

  4. Photoman,

    Do you want “businessmen who want a piece of the India story” to go ask China for a visa to visit Sikkim, because they “can’t care less”?

    And if you’ve been reading what this blogpost is saying, and not making up your own ideas as you type, you’ll notice that no one is asking any country to change its policy towards any other country. It’s pointing out that the Economist is breaking the rules it says it wants its readers to judge it by.

    As far as I’m concerned these are the only groups that matter to us.

    More importantly, I fear your concerns don’t go far enough. You’ll probably say that as long as you can do business it doesn’t matter if influential people in your neighbourhood call you by your neighbour’s surname, instead of your own.

  5. Sunil,

    I wasn’t talking about about the factual content of this blog – very often I find it accurate. In the present context it is true that The Economist breaks its own rules.

    My comment is deeper – should we even worry about what some magazine writes?

    We should be, only if it affects our interests – like appearing a government report, for example. It is here that I find your reasoning very amusing. So businessmen read magazines like the Economist to decide where to apply for a visa to get to Sikkim/Arunachal? Intersting. Hope you’re not of that type! (Wonder what are border check posts for)

    Your second point assumes that The Economist is influential. It hardly matters if this ‘influence’ is confined to the lay public or some academics or the kind of businessmen you describe. So long as it doesn’t affect our interests, we shouldn’t care. To use your analogy, what would you do if the only sphere of influence of these ‘influential’ people is small fry?

    Atleast I can think as I type. You probably need to learn thinking first, and then start typing!

  6. Nitin,
    The blogosphere has liberated me,in a way.It showcases the incredible diversity of indian civilisation.Nothing in this world can be straitjacketed.It is so nice to see a liberal,secular,right wing(on economic issues)view which yearns to make the anglo-saxon world see our POV.You sound like the Moderates of the Congress in the pre-gandhi era.And in the ‘end’ this might turn out to be the ‘right’ ‘way’.Good Wishes.

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