Earlier this week, leaders of Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam met with Chinese officials over concerns about the biggest drop in the Mekong’s water level in decades—feared to be a result of China’s extensive dams on the river.
The concerns of the four South-East Asian countries are valid. The shortage in Mekong’s waters affects the lives of 65 million people, and these countries are the hardest hit. China, predictably, has denied that its dams are in any way responsible for the shortage, and has traditionally been opaque about its activities in the upper reaches of the river. But then, China was never particularly neighbourly.
Compare this with India’s water dispute with its own neighbour. Pakistan’s allegations notwithstanding, India has had a record of civil cooperation that has transcended a history of bitter political conflict between the two countries. Such transparency has reaped little reward for India in bilateral relations. But in a region where it is the only effective democracy, this has lent some credibility to the country’s foreign relations.