Murals from the subcontinent in Parliament depict Ashoka’s empire: Arindam Bagchi

New Delhi: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has sought to address the apprehensions expressed by Pakistan and Nepal over the mural painting of the territory of the Indian subcontinent in the newly inaugurated Parliament House. There has been a misunderstanding in neighboring countries after Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said it was a map of “Akhand Bharat”.

“The mural in question depicts the spread of the Ashokan Empire and the idea of a responsible and people-oriented government that they adopted and propagated. A plaque in front of the mural says, “Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, chose not to comment on the statements of political leaders. The MEA also said that the issue was not raised by Nepal’s PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, nor was the ministry aware of any official protest launched by any of the nations whose territories are included in the map.

Though Nepal has not said anything officially, some of its former PMs, who are now in opposition, have spoken on the issue. Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Mumtaz Zahra Baloch was “surprised by the statements made by some BJP leaders, including the Union minister”, linking the mural to ‘Akhand Bharat’. He said, “The claim of ‘Akhand Bharat’ shows the expansionist mindset of the people of India, who want to suppress the ideology and culture of not only its neighboring countries but also religious minorities.” On May 28, Joshi had tweeted a picture of the ‘Akhand Bharat’ mural installed at the Art Gallery of the new Parliament and wrote, “The resolve is clear – Akhand Bharat.” In Nepal, the issue has sparked street-level protests from the opposition, which feels the graffiti depicts Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, suggesting India’s claims on the region. Former Nepal PM Baburam Bhattarai said, “This has the potential to further exacerbate the trust deficit that is already plaguing bilateral relations between most of India’s immediate neighbors.”