News River data to flow again as India, China defuse conflicts

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The two nations will soon hold their next meeting of the expert-level mechanism in Beijing

NEW DELHI: India and China are set to revive a mechanism to share data on trans-boundary rivers, a move that is seen as yet another attempt at Confidence Building Measures (CBM) to boost ties between the two countries this year.

The two nations will soon hold their next meeting of the expert level mechanism in Beijing, which was set up in 2006 for cooperation on sharing of flood-season hydrological data, emergency management and other issues regarding trans-border rivers such as Brahmaputra and Sutlej.

The 10th meeting of the mechanism was held in Delhi in 2016, but there was no meeting in 2017 as bilateral ties hit a low in the backdrop of the Dokalam episode.

The next meeting of the mechanism on trans-boundary rivers would take place in Beijing and officials were in touch to finalise the date, persons familiar with the matter indicated. This will be part of a series of bilateral meetings and big visits that the two sides are planning to organise as part of the ‘forward looking ties’ in 2018.

The two neighbours have a bilateral arrangement under which China shares with India hydrological data on cross-border rivers between May 15 and October 15 every year.

China, however, did not share any data on Brahmaputra and Sutlej rivers during the stipulated period in 2017. Beijing's reluctance to share river data with Delhi added yet another irritant to the strained bilateral relations, which hit its lowest ebb during the 72-day-long face-off between the Indian Army and the People's Liberation Army at Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan.

The hydrological data received from China helps India to prepare for arise in water level of the Brahmaputra and Sutlej rivers during monsoon and assess the possibility of a flood, or flood-like situation, and its extent.

The overflowing Brahmaputra last year caused four waves of flood that wreaked havoc in Assam, killing over 160 people and displacing a large number of people in 29 districts. Over 10,000 acres of agricultural land in Punjab was also inundated by Sutlej waters last year.

Delhi and Beijing first inked a MoU in 2002 for sharing of hydrological data on Yaluzangbu or Brahmaputra. The MoU provided for Beijing sharing with Delhi hydrological information on water level, discharge and rainfall recorded at three stations.

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