China has to halt river data sharing as India infringes on sovereignty: expert

By Zhao Yusha Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/20 20:25:48

Mutual trust lost due to India's intrusion in Doklam


Yarlung Zangbo River File photo: Xinhua

An Indian official's accusation that China halted sharing hydrological data of a river that flows from China to India has met with demands from Chinese observers that India should withdraw its troops from Chinese territory before pointing fingers at China on secondary issues.

"For this year, as far as I know, we have not received hydrological data from the Chinese side," said Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Indian paper the Deccan Herald reported Saturday.

The Yarlung Zangbo River is known as the Brahmaputra after it flows into India. The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on trans-border rivers in 2013 and India has since been briefed on data on the river's upper reaches.

No government department has so far explained the reasons for the alleged halt to the data sharing, but Chinese observers have pointed to the escalating tensions in Doklam.

"Although China is a responsible country, we can't fulfill our obligations to India when it shows no respect to our sovereignty," said Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Hu added that China will not agree to carry out normal cooperation on hydrological data with India, unless it agrees to withdraw troops from Doklam.

The military standoff between China and India in Doklam has lasted for almost two months, and there is still no end in sight. 

The upper reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo are in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, so China agreed to share hydrological data with India to help it prevent hydrological disasters such as flooding and drought, and carry out cooperation on the development and utilization of hydrological resources, Zhao Gancheng, director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times.

He noted that India has always voiced concerns over China's development of the river, and tried to hype these projects in order to incite their people's anti-China sentiment.

When the first section of the 9.6 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) Zangmu Hydropower Station went into operation in November 2014, the Indian media went to great lengths to predict the station was likely to cause floods.

China has explained on various occasions that hydropower stations will not affect flood control or the ecology of the lower reaches.

"Between India and China, despite the frequent rows over water, conflicts remain limited to diplomatic tussles. However, India's move of bringing up the sharing of hydrological data will exacerbate the already existing conflict between China and India," Zhao said.

Vital for livelihoods

With an average altitude of 4,500 meters, the Yarlung Zangbo River is the highest river in the world. It originates in the glacial regions of the northern Himalayas, runs 2,057 kilometers through southwest Tibet, passes into India and Bangladesh, and finally empties into the Indian Ocean in the Bay of Bengal.

Experts said that the Yarlung Zangbo is of vital importance to India and Bangladesh, because locals use the water as a major source of irrigation, fish and electricity generation.

Some 20 percent of the Indian population still has no access to electricity, news site reported in February. In order to generate more power, India commenced the process of giving the green light to 14 hydro power projects in South Tibet, which India calls "Arunachal Pradesh," most of which were lower down on the Brahmaputra, India media reported in 2015.

By infringing on China's sovereignty in Doklam, India has damaged the mutual trust the two neighbors used to enjoy, and China will be hard pressed to cooperate with India on other issues without the mutual trust, said Zhao.

Experts also suggested that India should take other country's interests into consideration when it comes to the exploitation of the Brahmaputra. 

Newspaper headline: Doklam trespass affects river data sharing: expert

Posted in: DIPLOMACY

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