Book Review: Diplomacy/Water: Asia’s new battleground by Brahma Chellaney, Harper Collins/2011, 386 pp; Rs699 (Hardback)
Water in ambit of serious diplomacy is a new arrival. As part of many international disputes, including of west Asia, water holds an inescapable centrality. Though in proper intellectual debates, mostly the concerned issues have been harshly marginalized. Brahma Chellaney, an strategist of repute with deep concern for flawed water management has come out with a very sensible work. He has succeed well to present the center as China and periphery as south Asian nations while leading the debate on water issues that largely shapes the international relations of these participants.
The deep search on the historical transformation of China from a shy water conserver to an overgrown infrastructure builder on water management leads the debate to a broader scale. At the beginning of Mao’s rule, China had only twenty five dams which grew one thousand times in last six decades. Its political/economic gain in Tibetan region keeping China more proactive, even the persisting discomfiture from India seems hardly making any impact on China. That is indeed a blunt assertion of denying any meaningful bilateral or regional co-operation and pursuing opportunist planks which are leaving extraneous negative effects on key environmental issues including water.
The title of book exactly justifies the apprehensions that have directed after reckoning the odds lying in future. Further, the sharp edge of analysis gives reader of this book a clear understanding, how artificially India and Pakistan are maintaining the deficiency of water consumption. Case was entirely different before the surge of heavy industrialization in mid twentieth century which altered the contemporary scene and replaces further it with a wayward dynamicism. India, along with Nepal and Pakistan have been forced for victimization by the obstinate stand of China and chances are still feeble that China would ever stop its claim for extra water sharing from the rivers originates in its command areas and flows in the south Asian nations.
Water is one among crucial factors that could have been the basis of unflinching support among the Asian countries but alas, the continuances of irrational choices are blurring the possibility of well woven and durable Asian fraternity. Central and south Asia are grappling with their own technical complexities and keeping aside any streamlining procedures in neighborhood. Same blockades are going on here; Mr. Chellaney has tried skillfully here to decipher some of the main constituents of disputes.
Book also covers the India’s bilateral position in water sharing with Pakistan and Bangladesh quite meticulously though on Nepal, more concentration would have a perfect boon. The perennial destruction through floods that India has been sharing for long with Nepal has lot to do with the denial of reformed water sharing between two nations in diplomatic relations. Here, the need is for closer examination, why India-Nepal is lacking co-operation on a pragmatic water sharing model which could assist millions of lives in north Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh and in Terain region of Nepal out of slapped misery. Overall, this book is an essential read for serious readers with expanded interests of environmental diplomacy.
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 11, 2011, Sunday, New Delhi