Saudi yet to withdraw banknote with wrong India map

Saudi Arabia yet to officially withdraw banknote with map showing J&K, Ladakh out of India

Modi to attend G20 summit to be chaired by Saudi King, although the commemorative 20 Riyal banknote remains on website of the kingdom’s monetary authority

The commemorative 20 Riyal banknote issued by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take part in the G20 summit on Saturday and Sunday, even as Saudi Arabia – the host of the conclave – has not yet officially withdrawn the commemorative banknote it issued on the occasion with a map showing Ladakh as well as Jammu and Kashmir outside India.

Though New Delhi late last month lodged a protest with Riyadh over the map printed on the commemorative 20 Riyal banknote, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) has not yet withdrawn it officially till Friday. The pictures of the banknote with the map depicting the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh out of the territory of India remained on the official website of the SAMA a day before the start of the G20 summit.

Riyadh, however, is learnt to have conveyed to the Government of India that it would act on protest from New Delhi and the controversial banknote would not be widely circulated. Sources in New Delhi said on Friday that the Saudi Arabian government might not continue printing the banknote.

“We have been informed by the Saudi (Arabian) authorities that they have noted our concerns on this matter (incorrect depiction of the boundaries of India),” Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), told journalists in New Delhi on Thursday.

The SAMA, which is likely to be renamed as the Saudi Central Bank soon, however, did not remove the pictures of the banknote as well as a note on it from its website till Friday.

The G20 summit on Saturday and Sunday will be held virtually. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia will chair the summit.

The Prime Minister will represent India in the G20 summit, the MEA confirmed on Thursday.

The controversial 20 Riyal banknote was issued last month to commemorate Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency. It was initially cheered by the netizens of India, as the world map printed on it did not show Gilgit-Baltistan and the parts of Kashmir illegally occupied by Pakistan as part of the territory of the neighbouring country. It was, however, noticed later that the map on the banknote also put Ladakh and J&K outside the territory of India.

The MEA spokesperson said in New Delhi on October 29 that the government had seen the banknote with an “incorrect depiction” of external territorial boundaries of India. He said that the government had lodged a protest with Saudi Arabia, both through the envoy of Riyadh to New Delhi as well as through the Embassy of India in the capital of the kingdom. New Delhi conveyed its “serious concern” over “gross misrepresentation” of India’s “external territorial boundaries” on the official and legal banknote of Saudi Arabia. Srivastava also said that New Delhi had asked Saudi Arabian government to take “urgent corrective steps in this regard”.

Riyadh, however, did not officially announce its withdrawal even as more than three weeks passed since New Delhi lodged protest over the banknote.

The highlights on the home page of the SAMA’s website included a note on the launch of the commemorative banknote. The SAMA confirmed in the note that the banknote was printed according to the latest standards in the field of currency printing, as it was characterized by many technical specifications, high-quality security features, and a distinctive design in purple colour that highlighted the artistic decorations inspired by the logo of the G20.

It also noted that the banknote had the picture of King Salman on the front side with a slogan of Saudi Presidency of G20 in 3D design. “The back of the banknote carried a map of the world, depicting the G20 countries in a different colour. Notably, Saudi Arabia’s map appears with emanated beams symbolizing the meeting venue of countries and the importance of the Kingdom as a source of civilization and economic emission,” the SAMA stated in the note on the website.

Ever since the Modi Government on August 5, 2019 initiated the process of stripping the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and of reorganizing the state into two Union Territories, Pakistan and China launched a campaign against India, questioning the legitimacy of the move.