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India and China agreed to exchange more hydrological information on common rivers and also discuss other issues in a tacit acknowledgement of India’s concerns over China’s dam building activities on the Brahmaputra.

The Memorandum of Understanding on trans-border rivers was inked after talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in the Great Hall of the People here.

According to sources, the agreement is a major diplomatic achievement as it is the first time that China has agreed to acknowledge India’s rights as a lower riparian state.

India’s consistent raising of the issue of China’s dam building activities on the Brahmaputra river, known as Yarlung Zangbo in China, has helped in Beijing becoming more accommodating this time, they said.

This time the agreement takes into account the environmental concerns of India on the Brahmaputra, including the damage to flora and fauna due to China’s dam building upstream. Beijing says its dams are run of the river dams.

According to the agreement, the two sides recognised that trans-border rivers and related natural resources and the environment are assets of immense value to the socio-economic development of all riparian countries.

Both sides also agreed to flood-time exchange of hydrological data on 15 more days – from May 15 instead of June 1 to Oct 15th.

Advancing the date by 15 days, at a time when the melted glacier ice of the Tibetan plateau begins to flow downstream, is also a major achievement, the sources said.

The two sides agreed to further strengthen cooperation on trans-border rivers, cooperate through the existing Expert Level Mechanism on provision of flood-season hydrological data and emergency management, and exchange views on other issues of mutual interest, the agreement states.

Earlier, China was unwilling to consider India’s concerns. But this time, it has been different, the sources said.

Ambassador S. Jaishankar told news persons the point of agreement to exchange views on other issues of mutual interest is very crucial. He said China is to have an open mind on India’s concerns and hold consultations.

The new agreement, which comes into immediate effect, will help bring in more flood data for India to help manage the heavy monsoon floods on the Brahmaputra which displaces thousands in Assam along the river every year. It would also give an insight into China’s dam building activities and vice versa.

This article was first published by the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS)

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