India has repeatedly raised with China the issue of construction of a dam by them on Brahmaputra river and it has consistently denied any such engagement, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said in Delhi on Wednesday.
"What I want to say is that this matter has been taken up not just once but on a number of occasions with China and China has consistently denied that it is engaged in any such construction activity on the Brahmaputra," she said.
She was replying to a question on the reported construction at the Zangmu site on the Chinese side of the Brahmaputra river, which was confirmed by the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) as per media reports.
The issue also figured in the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the ASEAN-India and East Asia Summit in Thailand last month.
Describing India-China relations as "complex", Rao said the dialogue with that country will acquire "more substance and more relevance" in the years to come.
She said the two countries will also be able to resolve all outstanding issues including the boundary matter through proper mechanism.
Asked about China's reaction to the Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang, she said there was no "strain" in the relationship and that was very evident at various levels including the recent meeting between the two Prime Ministers.
A report in the Indian Express on Wednesday said, the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) has confirmed that construction was on at the Zangmu site on the Chinese side of the Brahmaputra river, prompting the government to take up the matter with China at a “political” level.
In its presentation to the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) formed to assess Chinese plans regarding possible diversion of the Brahmaputra's water, the NRSA presented evidence of “houses, construction/excavation, and movement of trucks” in and around a 3-4 km range at the site.
Accordingly, the CoS, headed by Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar, decided that the issue was too significant to be handled by the expert-level mechanism on flood-water data-sharing. Instead, it decided that it would be better to tackle the issue at the political level through the Ministry of External Affairs.
The meeting of the CoS, also attended by RAW chief K C Verma, representatives of Environment, Water, Power, and External Affairs Ministries, decided to “constantly monitor” various aspects of the construction through different sub-groups set up by the CoS.
The CoS also decided that a subgroup on power should coordinate with all departments concerned to “expedite” hydro-power projects in Arunachal Pradesh.
Sources told The Indian Express it was possible that construction was for a water storage project. However, the real intention of the project isn't very clear.The NRSA's findings confirm The Indian Express report last month on the ongoing construction for a dam on the river which China calls the Yarlungzangbo (better known as Yarlong Tsangpo to the Tibetans) at Zangmu.
It is learnt that the Zangmu hydroelectrical project was inaugurated on March 16 this year and the first concrete was poured on April 2. The 1.138-billion Yuan (1 Yuan = $0.15) project has been awarded to a five-company consortium with China Gezhouba Group along with NIDR (China Water Northeastern investigation, design and research) involved in its construction. Involved in its financing is the Huaneng Corporation, one of China's biggest power companies.
The proposed dam was planned to generate 540 MW; its height at 116 m, length 389.5 m, width at the top 19 m and at the bottom, 76 m.
The construction raised concerns as there is no treaty between the two countries over trans-boundary rivers. Both set up an expert level group in 2006 to discuss sharing of flood-related data.