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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

China efforts to control water flowing south spur tensions with neighbors

Beijing is seeking to control vital water flowing from southern China into India and other Southwest Asian countries, according to an Indian affairs specialist.   

Jaideep Hardikar, a journalist at the Daily News and Analysis newspaper in Nagpur, India, reported August 9 that Beijing’s aggressiveness in border regions with India is raising tensions along the border.

“By annexing Tibet, China virtually controls the water supply of Pakistan, north and northeastern India, Burma and Vietnam,” he said.

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“Six major Asian rivers arise from the Tibetan plateau — the Indus, Mekong, Brahmaputra, Salween, Yangtze and Yellow River. China has plans to build several hydroelectric plants on Tibet's rivers and export power to its cities,” he said.

According to Hardikar, China also has used Tibet’s uranium mines to carry out nuclear weapons research and places to dump nuclear wastes.

China’s latest action is to open a high-altitude, four-lane road linking the country with Pakistan as a way to gain quick, direct access to the Arabian Sea for trade. The highway will reduce Beijing’s dependence on sea lanes through the Indian Ocean, which Beijing fears can be disrupted by U.S. warships in a conflict.

The new highway is raising concerns in India because it will traverse Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, a flash point between the two nuclear powers of India and Pakistan.

India is in the process of buying advanced P-8 anti-submarine aircraft from the United States in a move opposed by China. The P-8 will give India’s military forces greater control over vast areas of the Indian Ocean, which signals Beijing that India could disrupt vital oil shipping from the Middle East to China.

India’s naval chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said that India’s naval power in the Indian Ocean is "the weak area" for Beijing.

Chinese efforts to develop bases and alliances in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Myanmar are part of a strategy to get a foothold in the area.

"The weak area for China today is the Indian navy. We sit in the Indian ocean and that is a concern for China and they are not happy as it is not so easy for them to come inside," Mehta told reporters.

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