Indian Prime Minister and the Chinese PM met at Thailand. Let us hope their meeting helped to sort out the recent irritants in the Indo-Chinese relations.
What China’s rattling means for Indians?
Yes, China is giving India some headaches. There is no doubt about it.
But then, as many wisemen, who must know better, men, all experts in their respective fields, like K.Subramanyam, B.G.Verghese and Kuldip Nayar and others who were very much active in 1962 when China made intrusions and occupied Indian territory, know well that today’s China is a very much changed country.
They point out that China is no more an isolated country; China is a major power, even a major world power in the sense that China is everywhere, in Africa, around the Indian Ocean, in Burma, Sri Lanka and of course very much in Pakistan and China wants to be major players on the international scene.
So, they, these men of vast knowledge and the world around us say and assure us, the Indian people, that we must keep some patience and allow China ,they seem to be saying, to play out its own ambitions and assert itself in whatever they, the Chinese government want. Fine.
But then, they must be having sound reasons to assuring us. Now, the two PMs have met and one has to hope that things would improve. India and China have also signed an MOA on climate change. The Chinese hierarchy has no similarity with what India has here. So, we don’t know who wields real power in China. In India? Yes, in India too we seem to be having a particular phase in our changed political equations. Who wields real power in India? At least we can say that collectively the political and the government hierarchies jointly exercise real power and command the public confidence. That is as good as we can have. In China, it seems a set of mysterious figures who collectively give rise to these sorts of periodical ups and downs in their foreign relations. In particular for India, the China factor is a troubling one, China gives lots of avoidable irritants, on the border issue, in Tibet and the border areas and also in the Pakistan area.
So, we have to live with this problem in a collectively shared mindset. Arunachal Pradesh is one irritant. The other irritant is the reported building of dams across the rivers in the Tibetan geography. In fact, a series of dams. In fact, a hydel power generation plant at Zangmu on the middle reaches of the Brahmaputra. The plan, it seems, to be a larger initiative by Beijing to tap Himalayan Rivers for hydropower. Tibet’s, we are told now, have remained largely untapped until now because of the difficult terrain. With the development of technology the Chinese leaders seem to have embarked upon a dam building spree and in the Tibet and the Yunna in the southwest and in the Tibetan mountains, there seems to be enormous potential.
The trouble starts with the fact that such activities by China directly affect the lives of millions of people downstream of these rivers, in as many as seven countries, namely, India, Bangladesh, Mynamar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.
The dams on the Salween River in Yunnan, by some reports, have already resulted in flooding in the Mekong region downstream.
How should India be concerned?
India which lies downstream on the Brahmaputra and the dam that would directly impact us seems to be some years away. Yet, Brahmaputra, Yarlung-Tsangpo as it is known in Tibet is about to concern us sooner or later. The hydropower project apart, the Chinese plan seems to be to divert the waters of this giant river towards the northern arid region. The work seems to have started a year ago and in fact, China seems to have assured India it won’t divert the river waters.
China says it is run of the river project and no major diversion of waters is not envisaged. The real worry would start once the Chinese embark upon any diversion. This is a huge project costing something like a massive 62 billion dollar project and one can well imagine the fears of the Indian authorities. China, the reported based in Beijing writes to say, seems to be having a massive water crisis, half of the 660 cities face water crisis! This water diver project, it seems was a Mao conceived project long ago.
It is a massive concept, this huge water diversion project, something like 330,000 people have to be relocated and given the Chinese ingenuity, they could still do this and much more. It seems the Indian Prime Minister met the Chinese President Hu Jintau in Beijing in 2008 and raised India’s concerns. And India’s National Security Adviser M.K. Narayan has said that India is following the assurance by it’s “trust and verify” approach the Chinese assurances.
Hu is a hydraulic engineer himself and yet he is backed in this massive task (or adventure) Hu is backed by influential leaders like the former President Jiang Zemin who still carries lot of weight and influence in the scheme of things in Beijing.
So, India is hoping against hope and even, it seems, secretly praying (!) for some unexpected developments that might come in the way of Beijing’s plans!
An international expert, Kenneth Pomeranz, in Chinese water resources at the University of California says that in this instance China has all the leverage and as the experts and friends of India say that this is a case where India can at least only hope for an institutionalizing a sharing mechanism before it is too late.
Says an expert from India: There is no water sharing understanding in the India China talks and the only option for India is to keep talking, keep questioning China constantly on their plans.
This is not, to say the least, a happy situation for India at any rate.
Image Source : china-embassy.org