With persistent concerns expressed by India about China's exploitation of the Yarlung Zangbo River, upstream from the Brahmaputra River in India, officials and scholars should study the possibility of borrowing on the experience of the Lancang-Mekong cooperation (LMC) mechanism to resolve disputes along trans-boundary rivers.
The second LMC foreign ministers' meeting was held in Cambodia on Friday, during which the six members - China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam - harvested great achievements.
China controls the headwaters of several major trans-boundary rivers, including the Lancang-Mekong River where China's construction of hydropower dams was a source of tension between China and five downstream countries. The dispute necessitated the establishment and push forward of the LMC. Since its creation the mechanism not only contributes to the sustainable use of the Mekong, but it also promotes regional economic integration.
As such, the LMC can serve as a model for dealing with trans-boundary rivers, like the Yarlung Zangbo River. Just as China's dams on the Yarlung Zangbo arouse vigilance in India, India's efforts to exploit the river - which are no less ambitious than China's - have also sparked concerns downstream in Bangladesh. The three countries should establish a cooperative framework concerning the utilization of water resources and set up regular meetings among top leaders. It is understandable that India may want to reach a deal with China over the construction of dams and the sharing of hydrological data, but Bangladesh should also enjoy similar rights to protect its own interests against India.
China is likely to adopt an open attitude toward a multilateral cooperation framework based upon the LMC to ease tensions between itself and downstream countries. Such efforts could also help dispel concerns about potential ecological damage from dam-building projects on the Nujiang River, which originates in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region and runs through Myanmar and Thailand.
It is necessary for China to think carefully about how it will want to resolve disputes and work to gain public support as it promotes the Belt and Road initiative throughout Asia. Enhancing sub-regional cooperation that benefits all involved is a good choice because each interested party is able to have a say in protecting their own interests as well as in promoting regional integration. In this regard, the LMC has proved its vitality over the past year and should be copied and promoted to wider regions.
The author is a reporter with the Global Times. email@example.com