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India Accused of Pressuring China on Brahmaputra River


A leading Chinese think-tank has accused India of leveraging international support to pressure China not to build dams on the trans-boundary Brahmaputra River.

The influential National Institute of International Strategy at the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has called on Chinese authorities to continue developing the upper and middle reaches of the river.  

In an editorial published on October 7 in the Global Times, a tabloid published by China’s People’s Daily, Li Zhifei, an assistant research fellow at the National Institute of International Strategy, said India has been seeking sympathy from the international community while exaggerating the facts about China’s activities on the Brahmaputra in Tibet.

India has claimed that China’s actions pose a threat to the security of other countries, he wrote.

China and India share 16 major rivers, and in recent years, water resources have become a contentious issue between them.

"China's control of the allocation of water means, from the Indian perspective, 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," said Li.

"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 [Brahmaputra] River poses a serious threat to its national security," he said.

He also accused India of hypocrisy, claiming that while criticizing China’s dam-building on the shared waterway, New Delhi “has totally disregarded the interests of Bangladesh in the lower reaches through its own exploitative usage.”

Li’s commentary comes shortly before Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is scheduled to visit China on October 22. Water issues are expected to figure prominently in his talks with Chinese officials. Recent border tensions between the two countries could also be a point of discussion.

During Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to India earlier this year, the two countries signed an agreement to share information on the Brahmaputra’s waters, but they have not signed a joint mechanism for water sharing.

Chinese authorities this year gave the go-ahead for three new hydropower dams on the middle reaches of the Brahmaputra River, after a gap of nearly two years.