icon/64x64/regionalcooperation Regional cooperation

China, India formalise Brahmaputra agreement

China will provide Brahmaputra water flow data to India in the monsoon, but contrary to media reports, the agreement says nothing about visiting the river in the other country

The governments of India and China have signed the implementation plan under which China will provide water flow data of the transboundary Brahmaputra river to India during the monsoon months. Separately, the two governments have signed an agreement under which their officials will visit each other’s countries for training.

This is being interpreted by some officials in India as agreement that they can send hydrologists to Tibet to monitor water flow in the Brahmaputra, but there is no official confirmation of that from either government. As things stand now, the Chinese government does not allow Indians into Tibet, and the Indian government does not allow Chinese into Arunachal Pradesh.

The implementation plan that has just been signed during Indian vice president Hamid Ansari’s visit to China is a follow-up to the agreement signed last October at a meeting between Chinese premier Li Keqiang and the then Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh. Even then, many Chinese official and non-official observers had said broader cooperation on the Brahmaputra would be difficult without a resolution to the border dispute between the two countries. Given that background, some observers in New Delhi have described recent media reports about Indian officials being allowed into Tibet as wishful thinking, especially since there are further unconfirmed reports that India will have to pay for water flow monitoring stations that China will set up under the agreement.

Be that as it may, the data provided by China will prove useful in flood control, and China wants to know exactly how India will use it. The implementation plan agreement – which is between India’s Central Water Commission and China’s Bureau of Hydrology and Water Resources – states that the “Chinese side will provide hydrological information of Yarlung Zangbu / Brahmaputra River in flood season to the Indian side, and the Indian side will provide the Chinese side information regarding data utilisation in flood forecasting and mitigation and the information of the related hydrological stations.”

Exchange between public officials

The other agreement whose signing has created some excitement in India is a memorandum of understanding between India’s Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration and the China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong to enhance understanding and friendship by promoting exchange and cooperation in the area of capacity building of public officials.