Himalayan Rivers: Geopolitics and Strategic Perspectives
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Issue Vol 23.2 Apr-Jul 2008 | Date : 17 Feb , 2011

Joint Declarations: a first move?

In 2002, India and China agreed to exchange data on the trans-border rivers. In April 2005, Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Premier signed a Joint Declaration with his Indian counterpart. One article mentions the water issue: “In response to concerns expressed by the Indian side, the Chinese side agreed to take measures for controlled release of accumulated water of the landslide dam on the river Pareechu, as soon as conditions permit. It was noted with satisfaction that an agreement concerning the provision of hydrological data on Sutlej was concluded during the visit and that the two sides had also agreed to continue bilateral discussions to finalize at an early date similar arrangements for the Parlung Zangbo and Lohit Rivers.”

Delhi pretends that it has achieved a “˜mutual understanding. But is it enough to dissipate the doubt in the publics mind? And has the goal of equitable sharing of information as well as water resources been achieved?

In November 2006, the Chinese President Hu Jintao confirmed the above statement and further agreed that, “The two sides [India and China] will set up an expert-level mechanism to discuss interaction and cooperation on the provision of flood season hydrological data, emergency management and other issues regarding trans-border rivers as agreed between them.”

In the Shared Vision for the 21st Century signed in January 2008 on the occasion of the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to China, it is mentioned: “The Indian side highly appreciates the assistance extended by China on the provision of flood season hydrological data which has assisted India in ensuring the safety and security of its population in regions along these rivers.”

Delhi pretends that it has achieved a ‘mutual understanding’. But is it enough to dissipate the doubt in the public’s mind? And has the goal of equitable sharing of information as well as water resources been achieved?

Ten Thousand Methods Combined as One

In a previous article, I have mentioned the book Unrestricted Warfare, written by two Senior Colonels, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui. They argue that China should start surveying the ways to counter new forms of war as did Sun Tzu in his Art of Warfare over 2000 years ago.

One chapter speaks of “Ten Thousand Methods Combined as One: Combinations That Transcend Boundaries”. It is the art of combining different elements of these various forms of warfare. One of the many ways of unconventional warfare identified by them is ‘environmental warfare’.

India should certainly remain vigilant.


  1. Xinhua Communiqué, November 1, 1950, Peking.
  2. Smith, Warren W., Tibetan Nation (New Delhi: Harper Collins, 1997), p. 273 quoted from Invasion of Tibet by Chinese’s Liberation Army, US National Archives, (793B.00/8-2150).
  3. Already in 1903, the Viceroy Lord Curzon, had termed the Chinese suzerainty, a constitutional fiction..
  4. Mao Zedong, Problems of War and Strategy (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1954), p. 18.
  5. Barnett Doak, Communist China and Asia (New York: Harper, 1961) p. 106.
  6. Gingsburg & Mathos, Communist China and Tibet (The Hague: Martinul Nijhoff, 1964).
  7. It was in the fifties that the ‘Ninth Academy’, China’s main nuclear research centre, was built on the Tibetan High Plateau.
  8. B.N. Mullik, My Years with Nehru — The Chinese Betrayal (New Delhi, Allied Publishers, 1971).
  9. Brown Lester R., Who will Feed China?, (New York: Worldwatch Institute, 1995).
  10. For full article: China’s Water Shortage Could Shake World Food Security, by Lester R. Brown and Brian Halweil, see website:
  11. Tibet World News (May 4, 1994), China Claims Tibetan Canyon is Largest.
  12. The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mr. Jaswant Singh, speaking on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address, on March 5, 2008 said:
  13. “Sir, it is about the External Affairs Minister again. It is a very intriguing thing. I should not really be raising it until the discussion takes place on his statement. There is just one rather concise but intriguing sentence that the honourable Prime Minister made during his visit to the People’s Republic of China. This is exactly what it says, “PM also took up the issue of trans-border rivers.” I would like to caution you, Sir, that the question of the Brahmaputra and the great bend of the Brahmaputra before it debouches into Assam in the North East is a serious situation. “Sir, I have obtained for myself maps from the Space Research Organisation and they show that this gorge of the Yarlung Tsangpo and thereafter the Namcha Barwa mountain, has a drop of 2,000 metres. It is a narrow gorge, and 2,000 metres in a distance of about 15 km, which gives an enormous resource intimate to the people of China. I know there are plans to build a dam there. I would like to know what the response of the People’s Republic of China is about that.”
  14. Though it is not yet well documented.
  15. Or Nanfang Zhoumou.
  16. Near the town of Tsetang, the cradle of the Tibetan civilisation.
  17. On 24 January 2008, Reuters published a news story “China sees little optimism in anti-desert fight”. It says: “Chinese Deputy Forestry Minister Zhu Lieke admitted that the fight against desertification in the western regions of the PRC, including vast tracts of the Tibetan Plateau, was so far largely unsuccessful. Speaking at a news conference at the end of an international desertification conference co-hosted by the United Nations, Zhu said the Chinese government spent billions of dollars planting trees to hold back the spread of the sands, but “in some areas which have been treated, vegetation has only just started to grow back and is very unstable”. “If there is no effective solution in certain areas, the deserts will only keep spreading. In desert areas, there is a problem that damage continues at the same time as work goes on to turn back the sands”, he added. Zhu outlined no new measures or funding to fight deserts, but re-affirmed an earlier government goal of bringing the problem “fundamentally under control” by 2010.”
  18. See also the following articles: Breach in Tibet Dam Caused Arunachal Floods, Times of India (July 8, 2000); India Blames Flash Floods on Chinese Dam, Agence France Presse (July 10, 2000); Arunachal floods—dam breach in Tibet, China ‘hushed’ it up, Indian Express (July 10, 2000).
  19. The Tribune (4 August 2000), Flood Started in Tibet?
  20. This writer personally witnessed the extensive damage while travelling to Spiti valley a few days after the incident.
  21. India Today (25 June 2001), Made In China.
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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Claude Arpi

Writes regularly on Tibet, China, India and Indo-French relations. He is the author of 1962 and the McMahon Line Saga, Tibet: The Lost Frontier and Dharamshala and Beijing: the negotiations that never were.

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