Confusing Bhutanese irrigation handicap with geopolitical disputes

Owing to the winds of betrayal flowing in from Indian neighbours like China, Nepal and Pakistan, an irrigation lapse from Bhutan was suspected to be another neighbour turning cold. The Galwan valley LAC faceoff on June 16,  Nepal’s unilateral claims on Indian territory, and frequent LOC ceasefire violations from unruly Pakistan have given India some serious trust issues. 

A manmade irrigation system called ‘Dong’ shared by Bhutan and India since 1953 for agrarian purposes suddenly faced blockage. Reportedly, farmers in Guwahati staged a protest when they witnessed a scanty water supply from the irrigation channel. Assamese farmers use this water for growing paddy. 

Various media reports started flooding, alleging a hostility from the Bhutanese side. Due to the ongoing tensions between Indo-China, many believed that after Nepal, even Bhutan has turned its back towards India. 

The editor of Bhutanese newspaper ‘Thimp Hu’, Tenzing Lamsang released a series of tweets to clarify the Bhutanese stance. He said, “This year border is sealed to all foreigners due to COVID-19”. In another tweet, he said, “This is how we have prevented community transmission so far. Please don’t politicize this or draw non-existential inferences. The situation is not as heartless as it is being made out to be as the local government on Bhutan side there had earlier agreed to maintain those water channels”. 

Lamsang added, “even Bhutanese coming into Bhutan since March have to undergo a mandatory 21-day quarantine and tests before being released into the population.”

ANI also tweeted Bhutan Foreign Affairs Ministry’s clarification over the entire issue.

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Chief secretary of Assam, Kumar Sanjay Krishna said the water blockage incident “has been incorrectly reported”. The real cause, he said, is “the natural blockage of informal irrigation channels into Indian fields”.

India and Bhutan have shared cordial relations and any fake news menace shouldn’t come in the way. A few days back, while addressing a virtual rally of BJP workers, Nitin Gadkari said, “India is not expansionist, but if anyone tries to encroach our land we will give a befitting reply.” He went on to assert that India has “never tried to take a single (square) foot of land (even) from a small country like Bhutan”.

By Kunjan Ahluwalia

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