Indian threat-mongering over water resource disputes dangerous fantasy

By Li Zhifei Source:Global Times Published: 2013-10-7 19:58:01

As close neighbors, China and India share up to 16 major rivers. In recent years, the dispute over water resources has become a contentious issue between the two countries.

There are several main reasons. The first is the conflicts triggered by the development and utilization of cross-border rivers.

The feud over water resource allocation has sparked more claims in India that China poses a threat to the security of other countries.

Moreover, India also relates the contention over water resources to its border dispute with China.

It attempts to gain control of disputed territories by acquiring more international support and actual control on the ground through the development of the water resources in related areas.

Water resource disputes between India and China are mainly concentrated on rivers beginning from western and southern Tibet, with the Yarlung Zangbo River, known as  the Brahmaputra in India, being the current focus.

Both India and China regard the water resources there as important sources for future sustainable development.

India plans to build reservoirs and canal systems on the Brahmaputra River with an intention to transfer "surplus" water to regions with water shortages.

Furthermore, India has already set up dozens of hydropower stations in the so-called Arunachal Pradesh, attempting to reinforce its actual control and occupation of the disputed area.

China has already begun to develop Tibet's water resources on the Yarlung Zangbo River, and the first unit at the Zangmu Hydropower Station is scheduled to start operation in 2014.

The Indians think of the Brahmaputra River as a lifeline, especially since it is a main tributary of the sacred Ganges River.

If China stores water at the upper stream, there will be less water flowing through India, causing negative effects on the water use for its industrial and agricultural sectors which are mainly located in the basin of the Ganges River.

Therefore, China's control of the allocation of water means, from the Indian perspective, China will exert substantial economic influence upon the rising South Asian power.

India imagines that if China draws off water in the reservoirs on the Yarlung Zangbo River, it will become swampland.

The country also contends that China will probably carry out interceptions during dry seasons and discharges during rainy days as means to impose pressure on the Indian government, and that once a conflict takes place, Beijing is likely to raise water levels to cut off communications or drown enemy troops.

Therefore, India assumes that China's building dams on the Yarlung Zangbo River poses a serious threat to its national security.

The two rising powers demonstrate two different perspectives of development over the water resource disputes.

China stresses peaceful rise, and tries to build up a win-win situation.

In contrast, New Delhi has been critical of China in the upper stream by protesting against this imaginary enemy and trying to gain sympathy and support from the international community, but it has totally disregarded the interests of Bangladesh in the lower reaches through its own exploitative usage.

Beijing adopts a rational and restricted attitude toward India's domestic attacks on China's utilization of water resources.

The Chinese government acknowledges the water resource disputes, and predicts a potential intensified controversy, which, however, will not trigger political and military turbulence.

India expects to put more pressure on China by exaggerating the facts and drawing attention from the international community, with the intention of preventing China from developing Tibetan water resources.

China should firmly resist such remarks and actions, and actively seek to address disputes through following the principles of peaceful negotiation and cooperation.

The author is an assistant research fellow with the National Institute of International Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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