Chinese dam on Brahmaputra India outraged. But the government reacts meekly

By Saurabh Dubey

A vast and densely populated region of North-east India that depends on water from Brahmaputra and its tributaries is feeling agitated over China’s ambitious efforts to redraw its water map. China’s reported plan to divert the Brahmaputra from its upper reaches is being seen as a direct affront to India and a violation of International norms of sharing river waters. Once the construction of dam is complete, the control on the water of Brahmaputra will be in the hands of China. As the Brahmaputra is the lifeline of North East India, the life and environment in the region will be adversely affected by this development. The term Brahmaputra means “son of brahma” and in the early days of Indus valley civilizations Brahmaputra River is the subject of faith and legends of Bharat.

The Brahmaputra flows for about 1,625- km inside the Tibet Autonomous Region of China and for a further 918-km inside India. This is not the first time that tension is building up between India and China over Brahmaputra projects, which could affect the flow of water into India.

The BJP was quick to react to these reports and demanded that if there is fresh evidence of China’s intentions then India should immediately take up this matter with the Chinese authority. “These reports are of real concern to India. Since the last two years, there are reports that China wants to divert Brahmaputra waters from the Himalayas. If it is diverted, we will have real problems which will affect the economy of the whole region,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.The BJP MP had raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha last year.

Besides India, which raised the construction of a 510 MW dam on the Brahmaputra in talks with the Chinese leadership for many times. Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia had expressed similar concerns over eight dams being built on the Mekong river. The blame game, voiced in vulnerable river towns and Asian capitals from Pakistan to Vietnam, is rooted in fear that China’s accelerating programme of damming every major river flowing from the Tibetan plateau will trigger environmental imbalance, natural disasters, degrade fragile ecologies, divert vital water supplies.

A few analysts and environmental advocates even speak of water as a future trigger for war or diplomatic strong-arming, though others strongly doubt it will come to that. Still, the remapping of the water flow in the world’s most heavily populated and thirstiest region is happening on a gigantic scale, with potentially strategic implications. On the eight great Tibetan rivers alone, almost 20 dams have been built or are under construction while some 40 more are planned or proposed.

China is not alone in disrupting the region’s water flows. Others are doing it with even worse consequences. But China’s vast thirst for power and water, its control over the sources of the rivers and its ever-growing political clout make it a singular target of criticism and suspicion. “Whether China intends to use water as a political weapon or not, it is acquiring the capability to turn off the tap if it wants to — a leverage it can use to keep any riparian neighbours on good behaviour,” says Brahma Chellaney, an analyst at New Delhi’s Center for Policy Research and author of the forthcoming book Water: Asia’s New Battlefield.

Tibet’s spiritual leader, Dalai Lama, has also warned of looming dangers stemming from the Tibetan plateau. “It’s something very, very essential. So, since millions of Indians use water coming from the Himalayan glaciers… I think you (India) should express more serious concern. This is nothing to do with politics, just everybody’s interests, including Chinese people,” he said about the talking of Chinese intentions over the redrawing water map.

Although China is saying that it is constructing the dam to produce power but actually some hidden agendas are also associated with it.

The water resources of Brahmaputra will be a strong point to blackmail India. If China blocks the water in Brahmaputra, it will lead to famine in the whole NE region. India needs to take this issue seriously. The attention of international community needs to be attracted. But the problem here is that China does not care for anyone. It is trying an act of international bully. India needs a totally different tactic to tackle China. But can it handle.

Thus, the important concern is that whether the Indian policy makers will wake up before it’s too late. India lose its dignity in past because of sleeping diplomacy of Jawaharlal Nehru. When China started to build the Sinkiang to Ali highway in 1951 than our diplomats showed their concerned about the highway in written on October 18, 1958. In his conversation with Henry Kissinger , the than Chinese premier Zhou Enlai quoted “ even three years after the road was built, Nehru didn’t know about it. In my discussion with Nehru on the Sino–Indian boundary in 1956, he suddenly raised the issue of the road. I said, ‘you didn’t even know we were building a road for the last three years, and now you suddenly say that is your territory, I remarked upon how strange this was” (The National Security Archive). Although if it did not happen in the case of Brahmputra, in the case of highway projects and railway projects, we all know the GoI failed the nation. Indian government always wake up after the happening of policy disaster.

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