Buoyed by support from Japan over the Doklam border stand-off, India Friday upped the ante against China, saying that the country has not shared “hydrological data” on the Brahmaputra river since May 15, which is a violation of bilateral pacts. New Delhi’s assertion comes against the backdrop of severe floods in Assam and Bihar.
India has also confirmed the incident at Pangong lake in Ladakh, where Indian and Chinese soldiers reportedly engaged in a scuffle, and said that this is “not in the interests of two sides” and that they should maintain “peace and tranquility”. Besides, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs refrained from confirming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Xiamen in China for the BRICS summit from September 3 to 5.
The three elements, taken together, is being viewed as part of India’s pushback on China’s high-decibel rhetoric over the standoff, including a video recently released by its official news agency Xinhua that has been accused of using racist undertones to ridicule Indians. “I don’t want to dignify the video with a comment,” said Raveesh Kumar, the MEA spokesperson in his first official briefing.
“The hydrological data is shared every year, between May 15 to October 15, during the monsoon season. This data has not been shared so far,” said Kumar, adding that the two countries have two agreements, in 2013 and 2015, on sharing the data. The hydrological data is shared by upper riparian states to lower riparian states every monsoon, so that the flow of the water can be anticipated, and measures can be taken to deal with flooding.
However, Kumar said, the non-sharing of hydrological data by China “cannot be linked” to the current stand-off as there could be technical reasons. “It will be premature to link it,” he said. The hydrological data has not been shared by China for Sutlej river as well. Asked about incident between Chinese and Indian troops in Ladakh on August 15, the MEA spokesperson said, “I can confirm that there was an incident on August 15. It was discussed by local army commanders between two sides. We feel that such incidents are not in the interests of either side. They should maintain peace and tranquility along the LAC.”
Kumar said two border personnel meetings (BPMs) had taken place between Indian border guards and Chinese troops recently — one at Chushul on August 16 and the other at Nathu La, a week before. Asked about Modi’s possible visit to China for the BRICS summit, Kumar said, “I have to first confirm whether the PM is indeed going to China. There are established mechanisms about announcements of Prime Minister’s outgoing visits. At present, I am not in a position to announce.”
Asked whether he was adding an element of uncertainty to the trip, Kumar said that such announcements are made “a few days” before the visit. On Japanese Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu’s support to India and Bhutan on Doklam border stand-off, the spokesperson said the Japanese envoy’s comments “speak for itself”, and that he would not like to delve into who has given “memos of support”. Rejecting China’s claim that Bhutan had accepted that Doklam belonged to Chinese territory, the MEA spokesperson said they would go by what Bhutan said in its statement on June 29.
On the way forward, he said New Delhi would continue to engage with China to find a mutually acceptable solution to the stand-off, asserting that peace and tranquility on the border is an important pre-requisite for smooth bilateral relationship. “We will continue to engage with China to find a mutually acceptable solution,” Kumar said.
Asked for his opinion on when the Doklam stand-off would end, he said, “To answer this question, I will have to be an astrologer. Since I am not an astrologer, I will let it pass.”