ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Suggestions for an Approach

India-China-Brahmaputra

India justifiably feels uneasy about what plans China may have for the Brahmaputra in Tibet. It needs to raise the issue whenever there is evidence of planned diversion. But given our vulnerability as a downstream nation it is clear that we need to reconsider our own thinking about rivers, and be consistent between what we do internally and what we expect our neighbours to do, and between our behaviour towards our downstream neighbours and the behaviour that we expect from China vis-à-vis ourselves.

From time to time there are alarming media reports and articles about Chinese plans to divert the waters of the Brahmaputra (or Yarlung Tsangpo) northwards. Some reports portray China as a hydro-hegemon with all the rivers originating in Tibet under its control, and ready to use that control in its own interests, unmindful of the needs of other countries, or of the harm that might be caused to those countries by its projects. Some others — a few — argue that these fears are exaggerated, and that even if China diverts some water from the Brahmaputra, no great harm will be caused to India.

Until some years ago water did not figure in the talks between India and China, but during the last few years it has become part of the agenda. However, there is not much information in the public domain as to what is happening or likely to happen, and what that would mean to India.

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