It has been signalled by China that the nation is working on mega-dams on lower reaches of the Yarlung Tsangpo. It flows into northeast India from Tibet. Beijing has a control over some of the rivers flowing into India, which in turn gives it an advantage by giving it a choke-hold on India’s economy and negatively affecting Indians living in the North-East region.
China’s plans are problematic for India as they will dry up resources in the river on which a significant population of India is dependent.
Tibet is often called the “Third Pole” because of its vast freshwater and glacial resources. Since China has a hold over Tibet, it gives it a strategic advantage which it can use to dominate the dialogue with India.
The rivers which emerge from the Tibetan Plateau are very important for around nine neighbouring nations in the region. For decades, there have been disputes about the distribution of water of the rivers in these nations.
Relations between India and China have worsened this year. For months now, there has been a standoff between troops of both the nations on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) which also includes a violent conflict which resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and unknown number of Chinese soldiers.
Analysts at South China Morning Post (SCMP) say that now, India has fears as China can use dams and other water infrastructure as a tool in order to expand its control over the region.
China has planned hydropower projects on the Brahmaputra river since 2010 to yield energy. Now, China is aiming at the lower reaches of the Brahmaputra which is close to India and causes utility problems for the nation.
SCMP believes that over the past decade, at least 11 hydroelectric projects are either being operated or planned by China along the river. Only three are known to be in operation, out of which Zangmu is the largest and was started in 2015. In Tibet, Hydropower projects are either planned or under construction in Namcha, Bayu, Langta, Dakpa, Jiexi, Nang, Demo, and Metok towns.
Jagannath Panda, a research fellow at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis said that the Chinese construction of dams near the LAC has caused worry in India as it carries strategic intents. He also said that the recent claim of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in which they said that they never recognized Arunachal Pradesh as an Indian part is a sign that China might use these dams as a strategic tool to increase its control over the region.