NEW DELHI: While India considers expediting its hydropower projects on the Indus river in order to put pressure on Pakistan, China has taken a step that will be seen as cautioning New Delhi against moving too far in the latter’s current tussle with Islamabad.

China blocked a tributary of the Brahmaputra river as part of a major hydroelectric project, whose construction began in 2014, The Hindu reported on Saturday.

In a dispatch from Beijing, the paper quoted state-run Xinhua news agency as reporting that the blockage of a tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo river is part of China’s “most expensive” hydro project.

The Brahmaputra in its upper reaches is called Yarlung Zangbo, after it originates from the Angsi glacier in western Tibet, southeast of Mount Kailash and Mansarovar Lake.

The Hindu observed that China’s move coincided with the debate in India on the re-calibration of Indus water flows into Pakistan following a terrorist raid in Uri that killed 18 Indian troops.

According to Xinhua, China’s action on Friday falls within the parameters of the larger Lalho project that began in 2014. The project on the Xiabuqu river in Xigaze city, also called Shigatse, involves an investment of $740 million, the head of the project’s administrative bureau was quoted as saying.

The multipurpose enterprise, which includes construction of two power stations, was scheduled for completion in 2019. Shigatse, a railhead of the Qinghai-Tibet railway, is a few hours driving distance away from the junction of Bhutan and Sikkim. It is also the city from where China intends to extend its railway towards Nepal.

According to The Hindu, it is unclear whether the dam will have any impact on water flows towards India and Bangladesh — the two riparian states that are drained by the Brahmaputra.

China has maintained that its dams do not restrict the flow of water towards India as they are based on run-of-the river principle.

Published in Dawn October 2nd, 2016