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.
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). MoUs in this connection was further renewed in 2008, 2013 and 2018.
During the visit of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India to China in October 2013, both the countries also signed another separate “Memorandum of Understanding on Strengthening Cooperation on Trans-Border Rivers” on 23rd October 2013, in which inter alia the scope of provision of hydrological information of three hydrological stations was enhanced.
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 Langqen Zangbo 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 on April, 2005 upon provision of hydrological information of the River Sutlej/Langqen Zangbo in Flood Season by China to India. Under this MoU, Chinese side provides hydrological information of Tsada station located on River Sutlej/Langqen Zangbo. 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 w.e.f. 01.06.2021 till 15.10.2021.
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.
During the visit of the Hon’ble President of the People’s Republic of China to India in 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. Thirteen meetings of ELM have been held so far (twelve meetings held physically, alternatively in India and China). The 13th meeting of ELM was held on 18.05.2022 through video-conferencing.