No Threat from Brahmaputra Dams in Tibet – March 2013
Indian Prime Minister Dr Man Mohan Singh in an extensive onboard press conference on 28 March while returning to India from the BRICS Summit outlined contours of his first interaction with the new President of China Xi Jinping. The Prime Minister highlighted that before the formal interaction both leaders had what he called, “a very productive exchange of views.”
“We both agreed that the type of intimate exchanges that used to take place when President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jia Bao were holding their respective positions, and both of us agreed that we should aim to maintain similar relationship under the new leadership of China”, he said. He later added, “I got a distinct impression that the new Chinese leadership is as serious as the former Chinese leadership to promote good neighbourly relations and to find practical, pragmatic solutions to outstanding issues between our two countries’.
Specifically on the sharing of river waters of the Brahmaputra, the Indian Prime Minister reassured the media that he had taken up the issue with President Xi Jinping who has agreed to go into the nuances of the same and come up with a workable solution. Dr Man Mohan Singh said, “I also took the opportunity to raise the issue of trans-border river systems and I requested the Chinese Government to provide a joint mechanism to enable us to assess the type of construction activity that is going on in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. The President of China assured me that they were quite conscious of their responsibilities and the interest of the lower riparian countries. As regards the specific mechanism that I had suggested, he said that they would have it further looked into”.
The Prime Minister stated that the Government of India assessment was that these were run of the river projects. He said, “But as of now, our assessment is that whatever activity are taking place on the Brahmaputra region in Tibet, they are essentially the run-of-the-river projects and therefore there is no cause for worry on our part”.
The post BRICS media conference by the Indian Prime Minister Dr Man Mohan Singh has thus focused primarily on meeting between him and the new Chinese President Xi Jinping. This had been anticipated for long and given that this was the first time that the two were meeting formally it was expected to have been more of a familiarization meet rather than one in which substantial dialogue on any of the contentious issues may have been held.
However one take away is the concern that has been expressed by the Indian Prime Minister to the Chinese President that is on river waters sharing. The concern expressed at the highest level by the Indian Prime Minister would not have been lost on Mr Xi and he would have to address the issue on priority as it is becoming a hot button one on the Indian side.