1 Jan 2010
India likely to ban Google Maps and Bing Maps
Kashmir Telegraph News Service 

Highly placed government sources have told KashmirTelegraph.com that India is likely to ban Global version (.com domain) and China version (.cn domain) of Google Maps and Bing Maps for questioning the territorial integrity of the country. While the Global version continues to show Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, and Arunachal Pradesh, as disputed, Chinese version is depicting Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh as part of China, with Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir shown as disputed. 

“This a serious matter and we’re contemplating a ban, as depiction of inaccurate boundaries, in this manner, is prejudicial to the interests of the safety and security of India,” a senior Indian government official, based in New Delhi, told KashmirTelegraph.com, on the condition of anonymity. Under the Indian laws, publication of maps depicting inaccurate external boundaries is a cognizable offence, under the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1961, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both. 

The controversial maps, KashmirTelegraph.com, has learnt from highly placed government sources, dealing with this matter, are going to be blocked / banned in India by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, by invoking the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008, section 69A (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public). 

The government, it is reliably learnt by KashmirTelegraph.com, is in the process of issuing directives to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA), to ask all Internet Service Providers to block these controversial websites / maps. 

The websites, which face a ban in India are: bing.com/maps, cn.bing.com/ditu, ditu.google.cn, maps.google.com, google.co.in/analytics and google.com/analytics. Some web pages of National Geographic and World Health Organization (WHO) website, which depict inaccurate Map of India are also under a scanner and are likely to be banned / blocked in India. 

While Microsoft Corporation, despite repeated attempts by KashmirTelegraph.com, refused to comment on the controversy surrounding Bing Maps, Google Inc and National Geographic in a statement to KashmirTelegraph.com justified their stated position on these controversial maps and expressed their inability to correct the Map of India in line with the Political, Outline, and Physical maps of the Republic of India, as published by the Survey of India. 

“As far as Google Analytics product of yours is concerned, in absence of any committed timeline for correction, we’re constrained to ask you to withdraw the product from India, with immediate effect. And, re-introduce the product on the India-domain, once the maps used in the product, are corrected, in line with official maps, published by the Survey of India,” Romeet K Watt, Chief Editor, representing Kashmir Bachao Andolan wrote to Kent Walker, Vice President and General Council, Google Inc. 

Earlier Kent Walker had in statement to KashmirTelegraph.com said that Google was committed to finding a solution (referring to Google Analytics product) that will be in compliance with applicable laws however refused to put a timeframe citing “engineering changes” and “least possible interruption of other services”. 

“I would also point out that the depiction of maps on these tools is merely an illustrative representation of the region designed to assist website owners get statistics regarding the usage of their site in certain geographical areas. It is not drawn to scale nor does it purport to represent an accurate image of the maps. This is a well accepted position and users of mapping products do not look to map images on tools such as Google Analytics to derive information about cartographic issues,” Kent Walker further said on the controversy. 

“Notwithstanding the fact that depiction of maps on Google Analytics may be an illustrative representation, it is imperative that map is in accordance with at least the outline Map of India, as published by the Survey of India,” Romeet K Watt was quoted as saying in a communication to Kent Walker at Google Inc. 

Defending Google’s position on the distortion and misrepresentation of Map of India, Kent Walker said that it is Google's standard practice to show all disputed regions around the world on its global properties, such as on maps.google.com. 

"It has been Google’s consistent and global policy to depict disputed regions as per the claims made by the disputing / claiming nations on its global properties. This does not in any way endorse or affirm the position taken by any side but merely provides complete information on the prevailing geo-political situation to our users of global properties in a dispassionate and accurate manner,” Kent was quoted as saying. 

Localizing Maps to local domains to placate a particular country is pure convenience, and in this case is not acceptable from India stand point, especially with regard to Arunachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir. In the garb of complete information on the prevailing geopolitical situation, it is highly regrettable, Maps show J&K and Arunachal Pradesh as disputed. 

Citing Chinese law, Kent justified, the wrong depiction of Map of India on the China version. “Products that have been localized to the local domain of a country, such as maps.google.co.in, are generally subject to the writ and jurisdiction of local laws and therefore depict that country’s position as per the mandate of applicable local laws. It is for this reason that while operating on the Chinese domain, we comply with the mandates of their local law,” Walker told KashmirTelegraph.com 

Kent Walker insisting that Google does not in any way either question the territorial integrity or violate the mandates of local laws, but is rather a way of complying with the laws. 

National Geographic, piggybacking on its existing relationship with the Survey of India and Ministry of Tourism, by way of Incredible Map of India, justified the distortion and misrepresentation of the Map of India on its website. 

“When mapping the world at large, it is the policy of the National Geographic Society to have its maps show de facto situations and reflect the boundaries and names as closely as possible to those recognized by the governing bodies of the geographic areas involved. As a not-for-profit scientific and educational organization, the National Geographic Society strives to be apolitical, to consult multiple authoritative sources, and to make independent decisions based on extensive research,” Juan Jose Valdes, Director of Editorial and Research, National Geographic Maps was quoted as saying in a communiqué to KashmirTelegraph.com. 

Referring to inaccurate boundaries of India, Juan Jose Valdes, conveniently passed on the buck to Google and Microsoft. “Web site features a few dynamic mapping platforms, including Microsoft Bing Maps and Google Earth. National Geographic content is occasionally juxtaposed with content from these platforms and therefore the boundaries and place names shown do not necessarily reflect the cartographic policy of the National Geographic Society,” Juan Jose Valdes said in a letter to KashmirTelegraph.com

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