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?

How to beat China in the borderlands

Be more like India

How should India respond to China’s building of road, rail and communications infrastructure in areas adjoining the unresolved Himalayan border? Excerpt from an article in the July 2007 issue of Pragati:

Clearly then, there is an urgent need for India to review the way in which it engages China.

Meanwhile, the Indian government is caught in a reactive mode—building infrastructure in remote border regions in response to China. If done with due care to the environment this is a positive outcome of the rivalry between the two countries. Yet roads and railways do not always buy affection and China in any case can build them much faster than India can.

A far more effective way for India to bring its most distant citizens into the national mainstream would be to empower them through tangible political equality. Reconstituting the Rajya Sabha along the lines of the American Senate—and giving states like Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland the same number of seats as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and the rest—will not only be far more effective than big, leaky development programmes but is also more democratic. It is also be a move that China cannot match. [Pragati]

Related Post: The Catapult excoriates the Indian government for playing down reports of recent Chinese incursions into Indian territory