India says Akhand Bharat map cultural, but vows to reclaim PoK

It was parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi who stoked a controversy by claiming that the Modi government is committed to the idea of Akhand Bharat

NEW DELHI | Updated: 08 June, 2023 3:31 pm IST
Dr Jaishankar says the Akhand Bharat mural placed inside the new parliament building represents India's cultural map, not the political one.

NEW DELHI: Seeking to assuage the concerns of neighbouring nations, India on Thursday said that the Akhand Bharat map placed inside the new parliament is a cultural one, while reiterating commitment to take back Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK).

A diplomatic controversy erupted last week when parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi shared the photo of the mural depicting Akhand Bharat or Undivided India installed in the new parliament inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 28.

Akhand Bharat refers to the India of 3rd century BC, covering modern day Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Myanmar, Tibet, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.

“The resolve is clear – Akhand Bharat,” Joshi had tweeted along with the photo of the mural. And it did not go down well with Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal.

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While Pakistan issued a statement calling India an “expansionist” and Bangladesh sought an explanation from New Delhi. The issue was more serious in Kathmandu, with several Nepali opposition parties attacking PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal for his silence.

Days later as Dahal started an official India visit, he raised this issue with PM Modi. “We raised the issue of the new Indian map which is placed in parliament. But in its response, the Indian side said that it was a cultural and historic map and not a political one. This should not be seen as a political way. It needs to be studied,” he told Nepali parliament on Wednesday.

Echoing the same sentiments, EAM Dr S Jaishankar said on Thursday: “”This is a cultural map, not a political one. I hope our friendly neighbours understand it.”

However, the firebrand minister was unequivocal to reiterate that India is committed to take back the part of Kashmir forcibly occupied by neighbouring Pakistan.

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“As far as PoK is concerned, we have a very clear stand. And this is not the stand of just our government, but of the parliament and the entire country,” he told reporters at a press conference organized to mark 9 years of PM Modi’s government.

India considers PoK and Aksai Chin – currently under Chinese occupation – as its territory and is officially committed to reclaiming them. It has kept 24 seats reserved for PoK in its legislative assembly for the Himalayan region. In 2019, Union home minister Amit Shah told the parliament, “When I say Jammu and Kashmir, I include Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and Aksai Chin.”

Earlier this week, the ministry of external affairs clarified that the mural represents the ancient Mauryan Empire and signifies the concept of responsible and people-oriented governance propagated by King Ashoka. Sri Lanka, Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, and Myanmar have yet not commented on the matter.

Senior leaders of the ruling BJP and its ideological parent the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have often vowed to integrate these countries with India – to undo damages done to the country in order to make it ‘Vishwaguru’ or a friends-to-all superpower. But this idea never found its way into any of India’s official documents and is considered a fantasy.

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