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Period for sharing river data ends; India receives no info from China

Anirban Bhaumik, DH News Service, Oct 18 2017, 11:18 IST
Beijing, however, did not share any information with New Delhi even after the disengagement in Doklam Plateau and the period stipulated for doing so ended on October 15 last.

Beijing, however, did not share any information with New Delhi even after the disengagement in Doklam Plateau and the period stipulated for doing so ended on October 15 last.

China has not shared with India any data on Brahmaputra and Sutlej rivers this year, even as the five-month period stipulated by the bilateral pacts for doing so has ended last Sunday.

New Delhi and Beijing have bilateral arrangements requiring China of sharing hydrological data on cross-border rivers between May 15 and October 15 every year. But sources in New Delhi told the DH on Tuesday that no data had been received from Chinese Government during the past five months.

Beijing's reluctance to share river data with New Delhi now added yet another irritant to the bilateral relation, which was already been strained and reached at its lowest ebb during the recent 72-day long face-off between Indian Army and the Chinese People's Liberation Army at Doklam Plateau along the disputed China-Bhutan border.

The hydrological data received from China helps India to prepare for the rise in water level of Brahmaputra and Sutlej during the monsoon season and assess the possibility of a flood or flood-like situation and its extent.

The overflowing Brahmaputra caused four waves of flood that wreaked havoc in Assam, killing over 160 people and displacing a large number of people in 29 districts of the State. Over 10000 acres of agricultural land in Punjab was also inundated by waters of Sutlej.

New Delhi and Beijing first inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2002 for sharing of hydrological data on Yaluzangbu or Brahmaputra. The MoU provided for Beijing sharing with New Delhi hydrological information – water level, discharge and rainfall – recorded at three stations – Nugesha, Yangcun and Nuxia – in upper reaches of Yaluzangbu or Brahmaputra in Tibet Autonomous Region of China from June 1 to October 15 every year. The data New Delhi received from Beijing was utilized by the Central Water Commission (CWC) for flood forecasts.

The MoU was renewed in 2008 and 2013. A separate MoU on Strengthening Cooperation on Trans-Border Rivers was inked on October 23, 2013. This MoU provided for China to share data with India from May 15 (instead of June 15 as agreed upon earlier) till October 15 every year, beginning with 2014.

New Delhi also has similar arrangement with Beijing since 2005 to receive hydrological data recorded at Tsada Station on the upper reaches of Langqen Zangbo or Sutlej river in Tibet Autonomous Region of China.

At the height of the recent stand-off at Doklam Plateau near India-China-Bhutan tri-junction boundary point, New Delhi on August 18 made public that Beijing had not shared with it hydrological data this year although it had been expecting receive information on water level, discharge and rainfall on both Brahmaputra and Sutlej from May 15.

Geng Shuang, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chinese Government, on September 12 told journalists in Beijing that its river data collection stations in Tibet Autonomous Region had been damaged by flood and required renovation and upgrading.

Since the stations were not in a position to collect data on Yaluzangbu and Langqen Zangbo (Brahmaputra and Sutlej in upper reaches), Beijing could not share data with New Delhi, said Shaung, according to the transcript available on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chinese Government.

Beijing's excuse however could not convince New Delhi, as Bangladesh confirmed that it had received hydrological data on Yaluzangbu or Brahmaputra from China.

Yaluzangbu or Yarlung Tsangpo, a 1700 kilometer long river, originates at Jima Yangzong glacier near Mount Kailash in Tibet Autonomous Region of China and flows into Arunachal Pradesh, where it is known as Siang and Dihang, and then into Assam as Brahmaputra. It later flows into Bangladesh. Sutlej also originates from Lake Rakshashtal in Tibet and flows through Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana before flowing into Pakistan.

Sources told the DH that New Delhi had been expecting that China would start sharing with India data on both the rivers after the face-off at Doklam Plateau had resolved on August 28 with withdrawal of troops by both sides.

Beijing, however, did not share any information with New Delhi even after the disengagement in Doklam Plateau and the period stipulated for doing so ended on October 15 last.

India-China relations worsened even before the face-off at Doklam Plateau. Beijing was irked by New Delhi’s opposition to Belt-and-Road initiative of China and its decision to allow Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh earlier this year. India’s growing strategic synergy with US and Japan in Indo-Pacific raised hackles in China.

New Delhi has been upset over Beijing's stand opposing India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group and its persistent policy of shielding terrorists based in the territory under control of China's “all-weather friend” Pakistan from United Nations' sanctions. New Delhi has also been crying foul over China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is proposed to pass through parts of Kashmir illegally occupied by Pakistan and will thus infringes on sovereignty of India.

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