The sudden decision of CGTN, China's official broadcaster, to show Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in a map as part of India is being seen as a test balloon floated by the Chinese authorities to gauge Pakistani responses.
The move is significant because it comes ahead of the India-China military drill on December 10 and the ongoing debate on the Kartarpur issue.
CGTN showed PoK as part of India while reporting the terror attack on its consulate in Karachi. This was seen as a signal that Beijing was extremely unhappy with Pakistan's inability to protect its citizens.
CGTN uses fixed templates for maps and production staff are not allowed to tinker with them, sources said.
The decision to skip the use of the template could not have been taken by the usual production staff without directions from higher authorities, sources said.
Chinese authorities often use the official media as test balloons before considering policy changes in the domestic and international spheres.
Observers warned that this one-off deviation from the norm should not be seen as a change in China's official policy, more so because print media in China have stayed clear of the map-related issue.
Officially released maps in China have never shown PoK as part of India. The official media could not have shown a different map without a signal from higher ups in the Communist Party, sources said.
Maps are a sensitive issue in China. Chinese officials routinely visit bookshops and scrutinise local media to make sure that maps of all countries are depicted exactly in the manner approved by the authorities. Books and magazines showing maps that differ from Beijing's official view are blocked.