Cartographic aggression

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Cartographic aggression is the term by which a country describes any act, in particular the publication of maps or other material by a neighbouring country, which purports to show part of what it perceives as its own territory as belonging to the other country. In rare cases cartographic aggression may be committed by a third country in order to gain some diplomatic advantage. The term is not new, and well accepted even by professional geographers.[1] Recent and well-documented cases of cartographic aggression are:

China and India[edit]

Involving Aksai Chin and half a dozen smaller areas between there and Nepal, both China and India address the lack of treaties or any agreed boundary in this area by showing boundaries on official maps well beyond what each controls (India in Aksai Chin and the Demchok area just to the south, China also in the Demqog area plus all disputed areas southward.) Though China in 2003 recognized Sikkim as part of India, it consistently portrays most of Indian-controlled Arunachal Pradesh as part of China.[2] [3]

USA against India[edit]

In a rare case of 'third-party cartographic aggression', from about 1968 (into the 1990s) public American military maps (copied by numerous private map and atlas producers) began to show the India-Pakistan border in Ladakh as running northeast in a more or less straight line from the point NJ9842 (the last grid reference point of the Cease-fire Line of 1949) to the Karakoram Pass, thus 'awarding' a generous chunk of territory to its then-ally Pakistan. This would become one of the triggers for the 1984 Siachen conflict.[4]

Pakistan against India and vice versa[edit]

Pakistan followed the American lead (see above) in its own maps. As a result each country accuses the other of cartographic aggression.

Iraq against Kuwait[edit]

Maps were issued around 1990 showing Kuwait as a province of Iraq.[5]

Libya against Chad[edit]

Libyan maps were issued from around 1969 showing the Aozou Strip as part of Libya. The dispute which led to long-drawn desultory warfare between the two countries was later settled by the International Court of Justice in 1994 which awarded the entire area to Chad.[6]

Libya against Niger[edit]

Libya issued maps from around 1969 showing the Toummo Triangle area (approximately 19,400 square km) as Libyan territory.[7]

China against India, Vietnam, Philippines and Taiwan[edit]

In late 2012 China has started issuing passports that displays a map showing territories claimed by other nations as Chinese.[8]


  1. ^ A Case of Cartographic Aggression by B. K. Nijm, The Professional Geographer, Vol.33, Issue 2, p. 251, May 1981
  2. ^ TIME magazine article 1959
  3. ^ Open Society Archives,15 March 1961, p. ii
  5. ^ San Francisco Chronicle book review 2005
  6. ^ DARFUR : THE LONG ROAD TO DISASTER by Milland Burr and Robert O. Collins, Markus and Wiener Publishers, 2008,pp. 85–87 etc.
  7. ^ Darfur: The Long Road to Disaster by Milland Burr and Robert O. Collins, Markus and Wiener Publishers, 2008, pp. 86,115–116 etc.
  8. ^ [1],