Akhand Bharat map in new Indian Parliament irk neigbours. India says it is cultural map of Ashoka empire

Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan express displeasure over ‘Undivided India’ mural in the recently inaugurated building

Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan express displeasure over ‘Undivided India’ mural in the recently inaugurated building
Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan express displeasure over ‘Undivided India’ mural in the recently inaugurated building

Why a map in India’s new Parliament building has riled its neighbours

After Nepal, Pakistan now Bangladesh have sought an explanation from India regarding a mural installed in the new Parliament building here. Bangladesh and Pakistan also raised the issue a few days back. India has maintained that the mural only depicts the spread of the prehistoric Ashoka empire. As regards Bangladesh, its minister of state for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam asked the Bangladeshi mission in New Delhi to seek an explanation on the matter.

During an interaction with the media at the foreign ministry in Dhaka on Monday, Alam said the mural has “nothing to do with politics” and there is no reason to “get confused about it”, according to reports in the Bangladeshi media. Alam added that the Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi has been asked to talk to the external affairs ministry to get an “official explanation”.

“There is no reason to express doubts about it. However, for further clarification, we have asked the mission in Delhi to speak to the Indian ministry of external affairs to find out what their official explanation is,” Alam was quoted as saying by Dhaka Tribune. Alam was also cited by Bangladesh’s The Business Standard as saying that the external affairs ministry’s spokesperson had described the mural as a “map of the Ashoka Empire and it was three hundred years before the birth of Christ”. He added it was a “map of the area that existed at the time” and the mural depicts the journey of the people.

“The mural…depicts the spread of the Ashokan empire and the idea of responsible and people-oriented governance that [Emperor Ashoka] adopted and propagated,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said during a weekly media briefing last week. The mural depicts ancient sites such as Lumbini and Kapilvastu in Nepal and historic locations in present day Pakistan.

Ahead of Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s visit to India last week, the country’s political leaders urged him to raise the matter with Indian interlocutors. Bagchi said the matter was not formally raised by Dahal during talks in New Delhi.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prachanda on Wednesday said in Kathmandu he raised the issue relating to the mural during his visit to New Delhi and the Indian side clarified that it was a cultural map and not a political one.

Prachanda made the remarks in Parliament when the opposition lawmakers slammed him for not raising the issue of ‘Akhanda Bharat’ map, which, they claimed, also consists of Nepal’s territory. “While talking about the map during my India visit, the Indian side said it was a cultural map, not a political one. Further study should be carried out on the issue,” he said while responding to the questions raised by the lawmakers.

Prachanda said he mentioned the map during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said it was a cultural map not a political one. India has downplayed the issue of a mural in the new Parliament building, describing it as an artwork that depicted the spread of the prehistoric Ashokan empire. The mural triggered a controversy in Nepal as it is being interpreted as a map of ‘Akhand Bharat’ comprising parts of several neighbouring countries.

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