China, India and the Geopolitics of Water

April 25, 2013

Supplies of freshwater – for drinking, for irrigation, and for hydropower – are as pressing a need for growing China as are supplies of oil, gas and minerals.  For most of the latter three, China can simply compete on the worldwide market for its needs and avoid any direct conflicts with other powers (although concerns about future supplies have them behaving aggressively in the South China and East China Seas).

Water, however, is another matter.  China contains the headwaters of many rivers on which neighboring nations are also dependent.  Unlike most nations, however, China rejects the notion of water-sharing treaties.  I have written several times in the past about China and the Geopolitics of Water, but their behavior has grown aggressive even by their own historical tendencies.  This has raised hackles in India, the nation most effected by Chinese water policies, leading a geostrategic thinker to pen a column in the Times of India calling China’s most recent actions “a covert water war.”    China and India have fought small wars in the past, and it is not inconceivable that a much larger clash between the Dragon and the Elephant could arise over water rights.


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