The Trans-border rivers flowing from China to India fall into two main groups. 1) The Brahmaputra river system on the Eastern side, which consist of river Siang (main stream of river Brahmaputra) and its tributaries, namely Subansiri and Lohit. The river Brahmaputra is called Yaluzangbu or Tsangpo in China. 1) The Indus river system on the Western side consists of river Indus and the river Sutlej. There are two MoUs signed between India and China for provision of hydrological information on these two rivers by China to India.
A) Memorandum of Understanding upon provision of Hydrological Information of the River Brahmaputra / Yaluzangbu
In the year 2002, the Government of India had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China for five years upon provision of Hydrological information on Yaluzangbu/Brahmaputra River during flood season by China to India. In accordance with the provisions contained in the MoU, the Chinese side is providing hydrological information (Water Level, Discharge and Rainfall) to Indian authorities on regular basis during monsoon season(15th May to 15th October every year). MoU in this connection was further renewed in 2008, 2013 and 2018. The MoU has expired on 05th June, 2023 and is under process of renewal through diplomatic channels.
B) Memorandum of Understanding on Hydrological Data Sharing on River Sutlej / Langqen Zangbo
A need for trans-border cooperation for early warning system was also felt for Sutlej River in the year 2004. Accordingly, an MoU with China was also mooted on Sutlej (called LangqenZangbo in China) river. The main purpose of the MoU is flood control and disaster mitigation in downstream areas.
Thus, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with People’s Republic of China was signed in April, 2005 upon provision of hydrological information of the River Sutlej/LangqenZangbo in Flood Season by China to India. Under this MoU, Chinese side provides hydrological information of Tsada station located on River Sutlej/LangqenZangbo. The MoU has a validity of five years. The MoU was renewed in 2010 during the visit of Hon’ble Prime minister of China to India and in November, 2015 for another five years during the visit of Hon’ble Vice President of the People’s Republic of China. The MoU is now under process of renewal through diplomatic channels. Pending the renewal, China has supplied the monsoon data for Sutlej river for the flood season 2021.
The signing of MoU on Brahmaputra and Sutlej rivers with China is followed by the signing of Implementation Plans (IP). The last IP on Brahmaputra was signed on 13th June, 2019 at Ahmedabad during the 12th Expert Level Mechanism (ELM) meeting between India and China, held during 12-13th June, 2019 at Ahmedabad. The last IP on Sutlej was signed on 13th April, 2016 at Delhi..
C) Umbrella Memorandum of Understanding(MoU):
In addition to above two MoUs,both the countries also signed another separate “Memorandum of Understanding on Strengthening Cooperation on Trans-Border Rivers”during the visit of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India to China in October 2013 in which inter-alia the duration of provision of hydrological information of three hydrological stations was enhancedfrom 1st June- 15th October to 15th May- 15th October. This umbrella MoU of 2013 further opens up other areas of co-operation in water sector and has no expiry period. At present, there is no activity being undertaken under this MoU.
Expert Level Mechanism (ELM)
During the visit of the Hon’ble President of the People’s Republic of China to India on November 20-23, 2006, it was agreed to set up an Expert-Level Mechanism to discuss interaction and cooperation on provision of flood season hydrological data, emergency management and other issues regarding trans-border Rivers as agreed between them. Accordingly, the two sides have set up the Joint Expert Level Mechanism through a Joint Declaration by both the countries.
The ELM meetings are held alternately in India and China every year. Fourteen meetings of ELM have been held so far.Twelve meetings have been held physically, alternatively in India and China and the 13thmeeting has been held through video-conferencing. The 14th meeting of ELM was held at New Delhi during 20-21stJune, 2023.