By Amitava Mukherjee, The Diplomat. March 27, 2021.
If a new hydropower project at the Brahmaputra’s Great Bend comes about, northeastern India will have to go to sleep with the possibility of breach of mammoth-sized water reservoirs over its head at any time.
It may not be outlandish to conclude that the sanction given by China’s recently held National People’s Congress, the ceremonial legislature of the country, for construction of hydropower dams near the Great Bend of the Brahmaputra river (which the Chinese refer to as Yarlung Tsangpo) and a railway link from Yaan in Sichuan to Nyingchi in Tibet is an important component of Beijing’s overall security strategy in South Asia. Suggestions have come from important quarters that hydroelectric dams near the Great Bend are only parts of President Xi Jinping’s efforts to absorb in infrastructure projects parts of the idle Chinese workforce. But China has its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), being implemented in different parts of the globe. This can absorb much greater numbers of the country’s labour force than what hydropower stations in Tibet can do. So why should China undertake such an environmentally risky venture near the Great Bend of the Brahmaputra except for security-related advantages?
The plain answer is that China wants to maintain continuous pressure on India — be it all along the Himalayan range or the Indian Ocean region. It is plausible the Ladakh sector will witness a lull in hostilities between India and China at least for some time to come. True, a hydropower station near the Great Bend of the Brahmaputra had occupied its own space in official Chinese discourse since 2007-2008 when interested quarters had pushed for its inclusion in China’s 12th Five Year Plan. The proposal was shelved at that time, but Beijing undertook to develop the Bome-Medog highway, an infrastructure development initiative which always precedes construction of any big project. Obviously, this Chinese initiative carried meaning. The Great Bend of the mighty river is situated in the Medog county of Tibet.
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