The new 20 riyal note was issued on 24 October by Saudi Arabia to commemorate the kingdom’s presidency of the G20. The new note consists of a photo of King Salman and the logo for the Saudi G20 summit on one side, and an artistically rendered world map on the other.
But it has sparked anger in India, both on a public and official level, for appearing to show the whole region of Kashmir as separate from any of India, Pakistan or China, which all administer part of the erstwhile kingdom.
India’s government spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said Delhi had raised “serious concerns” about the banknote both at the Saudi embassy in India and through India’s embassy in Riyadh.
“We have taken up this gross misrepresentation of India’s external territorial boundaries on an official and legal banknote of Saudi Arabia… We’ve asked the Saudi side to take urgent corrective steps in this regard,” he said.
“I would reiterate that the union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh are integral parts of India,” he added.
Saudi Arabia is set to host the G20 summit on 21-22 November. India is a part of the G20, however the new developments could create some hurdles before the summit. An India Today report quoted unnamed sources as saying it would be untenable for India to participate unless Saudi Arabia makes changes to the banknote.
The controversy surrounding the map of Kashmir is decades old, as the valley has been divided by a Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan since 1972, when the two countries fought a war over the matter. Both claim the valley in its entirety, while China administers the north-western portion known as Aksai-Chin.
The row over the banknote comes at a time when relations between Saudi Arabia and India are seen as healthy, with Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman referring to India’s Narendra Modi as his “elder brother” during a meeting last year.