Asia Minute: Mapping the Law in India

May 8, 2016

Credit Wikipedia Commons

Geography is not always a strong subject for Americans.  The National Assessment of Educational Progress consistently finds US students’ score poorly on geography tests, and other studies find many parents don’t do much better. But if you have any dealings with a map of India, you’ll want to pay closer attention.  HPR’s Bill Dorman explains why in today’s Asia Minute. 

Maps and borders have sparked political trouble for as long as cartographers have been in practice.  Wars have been fought on nearly every continent over who controls what geographic space, and that remains a disputed issue in many areas, including the precise borders of India.

Since Pakistan was carved into creation with the 1947 partition of India, the two countries have fought three major border conflicts, mainly over the northern territories of Jammu and Kashmir a topic that remains highly sensitive.

Just last week, Malaysia’s Trade Minister issued a public apology for using a map of India that did not include Kashmir during a presentation in New Delhi.  India also has geographic disputes with China.

Now the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is proposing a new law about maps.  It would impose fines of up to $15 million dollars and potential jail terms of up to 7 years for producing what the government considers an inaccurate map of India.  The law would also require a government license for domestic producers of maps of the country.

This would complicate life for companies like Google.  Right now, the borders you see on Google Maps depend on your location---different countries, different borders.  In the United States, those disputed borders of India currently show up as dotted lines.

Just for fun: The Wagah border ceremony between India and Pakistan.