Even as China goes ahead with the construction of four hydropower dams on the Brahmaputra, a Chinese scholar at an influential State-run think-tank has accused the Indian government of attempting to “pressure China” on the issue by seeking “sympathy from the international community”.
Li Zhifei, a scholar at the National Institute of International Strategy of the influential Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, wrote in a commentary on Tuesday in the Global Times , a tabloid published by the People’s Daily known for its hawkish views, that India was looking to “put more pressure on China by exaggerating the facts and drawing attention from the international community, with the intention of preventing China from developing Tibetan water resources”.
He called on China to continue developing the upper and middle reaches of the Brahmaputra, or Yarlung Zangbo as it is known in Tibet. “China,” he said, “should firmly resist such remarks and actions, and actively seek to address disputes through following the principles of peaceful negotiation and cooperation.”
He said India’s concerns on the matter — voiced by senior officials at a number of recent top-level dialogues — were hypocritical because India was itself developing the river by building dams in Arunachal Pradesh.
“New Delhi has been critical of China in the upper stream by protesting against this imaginary enemy and trying to gain sympathy and support from the international community, but it has totally disregarded the interests of Bangladesh in the lower reaches through its own exploitative usage,” he said.
“India plans to build reservoirs and canal systems on the Brahmaputra River with an intention to transfer ‘surplus’ water to regions with water shortages. Furthermore, India has already set up dozens of hydropower stations in the so-called Arunachal Pradesh, attempting to reinforce its actual control and occupation of the disputed area,” he added, referring to China’s territorial claims on Arunachal.
While Mr. Li appeared to urge Beijing to carry on with its plans to develop the river regardless of any “pressure” from the “international community”, the Chinese government has, in any case, recently signalled that it intends to do so.
Earlier this year, China gave the go-ahead for three new hydropower dams on the middle reaches, ending a two-year halt in approving new projects. The projects were listed in an energy plan released in January, as first reported by The Hindu . China has already begun construction on one 510 MW dam in Zangmu, in Tibet.
The issue of managing trans-boundary rivers is expected to figure during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to China later this month.
Both sides currently have in place an agreement on sharing hydrological data, which, officials say, allows India to monitor flows. The agreement was renewed during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to New Delhi in May.
India is seeking a more robust joint mechanism for more transparency on Chinese plans on proposed projects, with hydropower groups here lobbying the government for dams on at least 28 sites, with only four projects, so far, given the green light.