August 25, 2006

This is about energy, did you say?

Arun Shourie

While we are being treated to lullabies — that the agreement with the US is all about nuclear energy — the laws that the US Congress is passing are absolutely clear in the objectives for which the agreement is being entered into.
• Section 2(5) of the Bill that the House of Representatives has passed states that the objective is to bring within the ambit of NPT discipline countries that haven’t signed.
In view of the dust that is thrown in our eyes, it is important to bear in mind two different aspects of non-proliferation. One implication of the expression is that India will join others in ensuring that more States and groups do not acquire nuclear weapons. That is a desirable objective, an objective as vital for India as for others, and everyone subscribes to cooperation for this purpose. But, as we shall soon see, the US has a second meaning in mind too: and that is to halt, roll back, and eventually eliminate the nuclear weapons capability of a country like India. The US Bills make no bones about this at all.
• Section 2(6)(C) of the Bill notes that the agreement that President Bush and Prime Minister have signed, and which our Government has been saying does not at all put a cap on our nuclear strategic programme, “induces the country” to “refrain from actions that would further the development of its nuclear weapons program.”
Section 3(b)(5) clearly states that the US policy is to “Seek to halt the increase of nuclear weapon arsenals in South Asia, and to promote their reduction and eventual elimination.”
Was it that the Americans hadn’t understood what our Government was telling them? Was it that our Government wasn’t seeing what the Americans were doing in open daylight? Or was it that we, the ordinary folk, were being fed sleeping-pills?
Section 3(b)(7) has an even more far-reaching implication. It specifies that the US is to aim, “pending implementation of a multilateral moratorium,” to “encourage India not to increase its production of fissile material at unsafeguarded nuclear facilities.”
In a word, even before the general Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty is finalised, the US will exert to get India to desist from increasing the production of fissile material.
Section 3(a)(1) specifies that the US objective in the agreement is to “Oppose the development of a capability to produce nuclear weapons by any non-nuclear weapon state, within or outside of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.”
India is outside the NPT, and, as we shall see, US officials were declaring at every opportunity that it most emphatically is not a Nuclear Weapons State, and is not going to be accepted as one.

Foreclosing options
Indeed, the House Bill goes further. It binds the US not just to work for these objectives on its own. It binds it to close the options of India, should the latter, in the reckoning of the US, violate the provisions in this regard. Section 3(a)(3) specifies that the US Executive will work to “Strengthen the Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines concerning consultation by members regarding violations of supplier and recipient understandings by instituting the practice of a timely and coordinated response by NSG members to all such violations, including termination of nuclear transfers to an involved recipient, that discourages individual NSG members from continuing cooperation with such recipient until such time as a consensus regarding a coordinated response has been achieved.”
Note, among other things, the requirement of consensus. China is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Hence, assume that at some stage we are compelled by circumstances to resume testing. Assume further that some country pleads in the NSG that, in fact, we had good reason to resume testing, that there are extenuating circumstances. That pleading would not get anywhere until China also agrees!
Furthermore, Section 4(2)(d)(4) prescribes, “If nuclear transfers to India are restricted pursuant to this Act, the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, or the Arms Export Control Act, the President should seek to prevent the transfer to India of nuclear equipment, materials, or technology from other participating governments in the NSG or from any other source.”
To ensure that the US Executive acquires the basis for such coordination — in the sense that it has at all times the fullest information about each item that it will urge others to stop exporting to India - Section 108(3) of the Senate Bill directs the US President to report to the Congress, among other subjects, on “any significant nuclear commerce between India and other countries.”
Similarly, Section 3(b)(1,2) of the Senate Bill specifies that, with respect of South Asia, the US shall aim to “(1) Achieve a moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear explosive purposes by India, Pakistan, and the People’s Republic of China (a curious insertion as China is no part of South Asia!) at the earliest possible date. (2) Achieve, at the earliest possible date, the conclusion and implementation of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons to which both the US and India become parties.”

The screws tightened
While we were being fed opium — “Amendments to the Bill have been defeated” — in fact a far-reaching amendment moved in the House of Representatives was accepted. It stands as part of the House Bill. This provision deploys an ingenious device to ensure that the US Government makes certain that we do not increase our weapons production. Section 4(o)(2)(B) of the House Bill lays down that in regard to India the US President shall present to the Congress every year “an analysis as to whether imported uranium has affected such rate of production of nuclear explosive devices.” Recall also that Section 107(a) of the Senate Bill binds the President to “ensure US compliance with Article I of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
To gauge the effect of these two Sections, let’s put two things together — the spin our government has been putting on the agreement here and what the US is bound to do by virtue of Article 1 of the NPT.
We are being told in asides, “The agreement will not limit our weapons production at all. The uranium we are able to import for our civilian reactors because of this agreement will, in fact, free the uranium we obtain from our own mines for use in weapons production.” The House and Senate Bills close this imagined latitude decisively. Recall that reference to Article I of the NPT. This Article mandates every signatory State “not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices.”
Thus, assume that we get uranium from the US or other sources. Assume, in accordance with the spin, that we are therefore able to use more of our domestically mined ore for weapons production. The point will be immediately taken to the US Congress and the conclusion urged that to continue nuclear cooperation with India will violate this Article. Malignant consequences will follow straightaway.
We should also bear in mind that the Article imposes this restriction in regard to non-Nuclear Weapons States. It does not place any similar restriction on nuclear assistance or exports, say of uranium or any other material, by a Nuclear Weapons State, say the US, to another Nuclear Weapons State, say China.

Provisions of consequence
That these are not idle, vacuous statements, that they are not just expressions of sentiment, so to say, is evident from Section 4(o) of the House Bill. This Section lays down that, among the items on which the US President must report every year to the US Congress, are “(A) the extent to which each policy objective in section 3(b) has been achieved; (B) the steps taken by the US and India in the preceding calendar year to accomplish those objectives; (C) the extent of cooperation by other countries in achieving those objectives; and (D) the steps the US will take in the current calendar year to accomplish those objectives.”
Further, Section 4(b)(4) provides that the agreement will come into force only after the US President files a determination that “India is working actively with the US for the early conclusion of a multilateral Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.”
Not just that. The provision that follows adds another twist. Section 4(c)(2)(D) provides that, among the items on which the US President must report to and about which he must satisfy the Congress every year shall be “A description of the steps that India is taking to work with the US for the conclusion of a multilateral treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, including a description of the steps that the US has taken and will take to encourage India to identify and declare a date by which India would be willing to stop production of fissile material for nuclear weapons unilaterally or pursuant to a multilateral moratorium or treaty.”
Thus, (i) “India to identify and declare a date by which India would be willing to stop production of fissile material for nuclear weapons”, and (ii) it is to be “encouraged” to do so “unilaterally”.

The provisions tightened
The Senate Bill is equally unambiguous and explicit. In fact, it makes the conditions tighter. Section 102(5) provides that “any commerce in civil nuclear energy with India by the US and other countries must be achieved in a manner that minimises the risk of nuclear proliferation or regional arms races and maximises India’s adherence to international non-proliferation regimes, including, in particular, the Guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).”
Section 103(1) provides, “It shall be the policy of the United States with respect to any peaceful atomic energy cooperation between the US and India - (1) to achieve as quickly as possible a cessation of the production by India and Pakistan of fissile materials for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices.”
Section 103(9) lays down “that exports of nuclear fuel to India should not contribute to, or in any way encourage, increases in the production by India of fissile material for non-civilian purposes.”
Section 108 makes it the duty of the US President to keep Congress informed “fully and currently” of “the facts and implications” regarding, inter alia, “(2) the construction of a nuclear facility in India after the date of the enactment of this Act; (3) significant changes in the production by India of nuclear weap- ons or in the types or amounts of fissile material produced; (4) changes in the purpose or operational status of any unsafeguarded nuclear fuel cycle activities in India.”
Section 108(5) specifies the items further. It requires the President to provide “a detailed description of - (A) US efforts to promote national or regional progress by India and Pakistan in disclosing, securing, capping, and reducing their fissile material stockpiles” — pause for a moment, and read the words again, “disclosing, securing, capping, and reducing their fissile material stockpiles”: and yet the Government has been declaring that there is nothing in what has been done since the 18 July statement which threatens to cap our weapons programme!
The words that follow reach even farther: India is to disclose, secure, cap, and reduce its fissile material stockpiles “pending creation of a world-wide fissile material cut-off regime, including the institution of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.” In a word, the US is to work to get India to disclose, secure, cap, and reduce its fissile material stockpiles even before any such treaty is finalised.
The Section proceeds to require the President to report “(B) the reactions of India and Pakistan to such efforts; and (C) assistance that the United States is providing, or would be able to provide, to India and Pakistan to promote the objectives in subparagraph (A), consistent with its obligations under international law and existing agreements.”
Notice the expression, “unilaterally” in the House Bill. That is, we are to be encouraged to “unilaterally” agree to “stop production of fissile material for nuclear weapons” just as we have been persuaded to “voluntarily” close CIRUS! “Curse it,” that astute Roman, Cicero, asked the assembled Senators as they succumbed to Mark Antony’s usurpations, “do you have to be voluntary slaves?”
Notice, next, in the Senate Bill, the expression, “pending creation of a world-wide fissile material cut-off regime.” That is, we are to disclose, secure, cap, and reduce its fissile material stockpiles even before the FMCT comes into effect, in fact even if one doesn’t come into effect.
Finally, recall the reference to US’s “obligations under international law and existing agreements” - and the point that will be made about what the US must do under Article I of the NPT.

A voluntary moratorium converted into a binding restriction for ever
I well remember the caustic shrieks by which Congress spokesmen, having first denounced Mr Vajpayee for conducting the 1998 tests, then denounced him for declaring a voluntary moratorium on further tests. They cited the opinion of a leading scientist that India needed further tests. They invoked American barbs to the effect that, in fact, the tests had not just been inconclusive, one of them had actually failed.
There were two features about what Mr Vajpayee declared. First, what was declared was a “moratorium” — that is, a temporary suspension. Second, that suspension was a voluntary one: should the situation require that we conduct further tests, the decision to do so was kept completely within our hands. The later pledge to convert this into a de jure moratorium also envisaged that exit clauses — like CTBT’s “supreme national interest” — would form part of whatever instrument would be signed.
Through this agreement the US seeks to convert that voluntary, temporary suspension into a legally binding prohibition in perpetuity. This is evident from the US Bills. To their credit, officials of the US have been absolutely explicit, absolutely unambiguous about this. In her testimony, the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, for instance, told the Congressional Committee, “We have been very clear with the Indians that the permanence of the safeguards is permanence of the safeguards, without condition. In fact, we reserve the right, should India test, as it has agreed not to do, or should India in any way violate the IAEA safeguard agreement to which it would be adhering, that the deal from our point of view would at that point be off.”
And this imperative now forms part of the Senate Bill. The Senate Bill’s Section 110 : “any waiver under Section 104 (the waiver that is required to allow nuclear commerce with India) shall cease to be effective if the President determines that India has detonated a nuclear explosive device after the date of the enactment of this Act.”
Thus, we are in effect to sign up on the CTBT, a treaty which the Senate itself has thrown out. We are to sign up on more than the CTBT as the prohibition on us shall be in perpetuity, without condition, while the CTBT explicitly allows a country to withdraw the very next day after it has signed up if its “supreme national interest”, as assessed by the country itself, requires.
Talk of parity!

(To be concluded)

Asia's Coming Water Wars

While the world's attention is focused on record high oil prices, water, like oil, is increasingly emerging as a catalyst for international instability and conflict as the recent upsurge in violence in Sri Lanka illustrates. On July 20, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (L.T.T.E.) shut down the Maavilaru dam's sluice gate near the town of Kantalai in the northeastern Trincomalee district, which cut off water supplies for 60,000 people in government-controlled areas. This led the Sri Lankan military to commence an aerial bombardment of Tiger positions and a ground offensive to gain control of the reservoir's control point. The Tigers claim that their actions were sparked by the government's failure to build a water tower to supply L.T.T.E.-controlled areas and responded by going on the offensive in Mutur. With more than 500 people killed since fighting erupted over the disputed waterway, the 2002 ceasefire has now collapsed in all but name.

Water is increasingly emerging as a scarce commodity, fueled by population pressures, intensive irrigation, and erratic weather patterns brought on by global warming. According to the International Water Management Institute, by 2025 one-third of the world's population will lack access to water. Developing countries bear the brunt of water shortages given the lack of clean drinking water and adequate sanitation in these states, which has been exacerbated by rapid development, population pressures and significant urban-to-rural migration. Developing countries are also the most likely to face water-related conflict given the lack of cooperative management mechanisms between developing states on managing shared water resources.

Of the world's 263 international basins, three-fifths of them lack a feasible cooperative management framework. While water disputes alone are not likely to spark a conflict, they are likely to fuel already existent, long-standing tensions within and between states. Since 1948, close to 40 incidents of hostilities have taken place over water resources, most of which have taken place in the Middle East. In the Middle East, the Jordan River Basin and the Tigris-Euphrates Basin are the most likely regions of water-related conflict, while in Africa the Nile River, Volta River, Zambezi River, and the Niger Basin are conflict-prone zones.

In the 21st century, however, Asia may emerge as the new focal point of water-related conflict given the rapid growth of the region, which is likely to put pressure on water resources, coupled with the concentration of long-standing internal and inter-state tensions, which can act as a spark for turning water-related disputes into full-scale conflicts. Asia is home to 57 international basins, the third largest after Europe and Africa.

In Asia, three regions are the most likely candidates for water-related conflict: Central Asia, South Asia and the Mekong sub-region in Southeast Asia. Central Asia's water fault-lines include the division of the Caspian Sea between the five littoral states (Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan) and a dispute over access to water from the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers between upstream states (Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) and downstream states (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan).

South Asia's water tensions include the Indo-Pakistan dispute over the Wular Barrage, Indo-Bangladesh water dispute over the Farakka Barrage and the Indo-Nepal dispute over the Mahakali River Treaty.

In Southeast Asia, water-related tensions arise from attempts by the six riparian states (Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam) to construct dams in order to reroute the Mekong River system. While management systems have been established for these disputes -- such as the Mekong River Committee (1957) and its successor the Mekong River Commission, the treaties of Sarada (1920), Kosi (1954) and Gandak (1959) between India and Nepal, the Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan (1960), the Ganges Waters Treaty between India and Bangladesh (1977), and the 1998 "Agreement on the Use of Water and Energy Resources of the Syr Darya Basin" between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan -- they have been poorly enforced.

Furthermore, all three regions are plagued by long-standing historical animosities and internal instabilities and water disputes serve to focus these tensions. The fact that these river systems run through multiple countries -- notably the Aral Sea, Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Mekong Rivers are each shared by at least five states -- creates the potential for regional conflict over water.

Mekong River Delta: Dams a Barrier for Cooperation

The Asian Development Bank launched the Mekong Sub-region in 1992 as an initiative aimed at promoting development, trade and integration through enhancing transportation, communication, and power networks between the six countries in the region. The Mekong region covers over 2.3 million square miles and is home to 240 million people. The 4,880 kilometer (3,032 miles) Mekong River begins in the Tibetan plateau, and makes its way through China's Yunnan province, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and discharges out into the South China Sea. Close to 70 million people depend on the river for food, water and transport and the region accounts for 20 percent of all fish caught from the inland waters of the world.

While the world's attention is focused on the Three Gorges Dam, which was completed in May 2006, less attention has been paid to a number of other massive dam projects under construction or consideration in China. China's dam-construction binge has been fueled by its growing energy needs, the appeal of hydropower as a clean fuel, the need for flood control, as well as the interest in massive infrastructure projects by provincial governments in order to boost their growth figures.

Sixteen percent of China's electricity generation comes from hydropower, with a government survey putting China's hydropower potential at 700,000 megawatts. China currently has more than 85,000 dams, close to half of the world's total. More than 16 million people have been displaced as a result of the construction of these dams and tensions have been further fueled by the lack of public participation in evaluating the environmental impact of these projects and determining compensation for relocation.

In the Upper Mekong Basin in Yunnan Province, China has planned to construct eight cascade hydropower dams, the first of which, the Manwan Dam, was completed in 1996. This has diverted water from downstream countries in the Mekong River Delta, resulting in irregular fluctuations in water levels, which has harmed local industries in the region, including farming and fishing in Cambodia and Thailand, and the tourism industry in Laos.

The environmental impact of China's Mekong River policy is being further felt by its US$20 billion proposal to build a canal across Thailand's Kra Isthmus to transport petroleum from Thailand to southern China. This initiative is being encouraged by China's desire to bypass the narrow Strait of Malacca, through which 80 percent of China's oil imports currently transit, which Beijing views as a strategic vulnerability given that the waters are a hub for piracy and potential terrorist attacks and patrolled by the U.S. Navy. However, an oil spill along this waterway would devastate the ecosystem of the Mekong River as well as the economies of the region that depend on the river for their livelihood.

Beijing has been slow in sharing information on its river diverting projects along the Upper Mekong Basin. While China claims to support multilateralism, it has refused to join the four-country Mekong River Commission (M.R.C.) comprising Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, although both Myanmar and China are Dialogue Partners. The M.R.C. was established in 1995 as the successor to the 1957 Mekong Committee (Committee for Coordination of Investigations of the Lower Mekong Basin) to ensure the equitable use of the river system as well as addressing issues of fisheries management, safe navigation, irrigated agriculture, watershed management, environmental protection, flood management and hydropower development.

Following in the footsteps of China, other countries in the delta have also pursued a unilateral approach toward projects along the river system -- Vietnam has engaged in several dam construction projects without consulting with Cambodia, as has Laos. Coupled with long-standing historical animosities between states in the region such as between China and Vietnam and Thailand and Myanmar, as well as internal frictions caused by poverty and a number of long-standing insurgencies, water disputes act as a potential catalyst for regional conflict.

South Asia: Holy Rivers and Holy War

Three of the seven South Asian states -- Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal -- are involved in water sharing conflicts with India. These conflicts are exacerbated by the fact that these countries are mainly agrarian economies.

Tensions between India and Pakistan are focused on their territorial dispute over Kashmir, Pakistan's alleged support for terrorist attacks in India and historical animosities emanating from the partition of the Indian subcontinent. Water disputes between both states, however, offer a potential catalyst for conflict. The Indus River system is the largest, contiguous irrigation system in the world with a command area of 20 million hectares and an annual irrigation capacity of over 12 million hectares. The headwater of the basin is in India.

Although the Indus Water Treaty of 1960 has tempered disputes between India and Pakistan over the river system, it has failed to resolve their long-standing dispute over the Wular Barrage. Since 1985, Pakistan has objected to India's Tubul Navigation Project on the River Jhelum. Pakistan claims that India has violated Article I (11) of the Indus Waters Treaty, which prohibits both parties from undertaking any "man-made obstruction" that may cause "change in the volume of the daily flow of waters" and Article III (4) which bars India from "storing any water of, or construct any storage works on, the Western Rivers."

Furthermore, Pakistan regards India's control of the River Jhelum as a threat to its security should India decide to withhold the water. The Indus Waters Commission has failed to resolve the issue and it has been on the agenda of the Indo-Pak talks at Lahore in February 1999, the Agra Summit of July 2001, and part of the Composite Dialogue initiated in January 2004.

Meanwhile, on its eastern borders India is also engaged in several water disputes with Nepal, Bangladesh and China. The Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna region comprises the catchment areas of three major river systems that flow through India, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Bangladesh. This system is second only to the Amazon with an annual discharge of 1,350 billion cubic meters and a total drainage area of 1.75 million square kilometers. With a population of over 600 million people living in the region, which is growing at an annual rate of two percent, there is considerable pressure on the region's resources.

The Mahakali River flows along the Nepal-India western border. The river was fixed as the western boundary between Nepal and British India in 1816. Nepal's rivers have the potential to generate 83,000 MW of electricity through hydropower generation, most of which could be exported to India to meet its growing energy needs -- northern India currently faces a power deficit of 9,500 MW, which is expected to rise to 20,000 MW by 2010. Although both states have reached numerous water-resource development agreements, Indo-Nepali cooperation on the river systems has been slow.

Tensions grew following India's construction of the Tanakpur Barrage on the Mahakali River in 1998. This was based on a memorandum of understanding that was signed between both states in 1991 and renegotiated as the "Integrated Development of the Mahakali River including Sarada Barrage, Tanakpur Barrage and Pancheswar Project" in 1996. The ratification of the treaty has not only soured relations between India and Nepal but also enflamed internal Nepalese politics as the Nepali Congress and United Marxist Leninist party have accused each other of selling out Nepal's interests under foreign pressure. Discussions have raged over the interpretation of the treaty, the presence of Indian troops in disputed upstream territory, the issue of water rights, the selling price of electricity, the environmental impact of the infrastructure project and the displacement of as many as 65,000 people as a result of the project.

Water-related tensions in South Asia, however, are greatest between India and Bangladesh. Tensions between Bangladesh and India emanate from the disputed status of their border, illegal migration and Bangladesh's alleged support for militant groups operating in India's northeast, coupled with rising Islamic fundamentalist sentiment in Bangladesh under the Bangladesh National Party (B.N.P.)-led government. These tensions have even led to skirmishes between India's Border Security Force and the Bangladesh Rifles, as occurred most recently on Bangladesh's border with Assam in August.

Water disputes are likely to enflame these tensions given that 54 rivers flow from India into Bangladesh. Although the Joint Rivers Commission was established in 1972 as the facilitating body to resolve trans-boundary water disputes between both states, which was complemented by the Ganges Water Agreement in 1977, several water-related disagreements continue to exist between both states.

First, both states have accused each other of causing the erosion of riverbanks that mark the 180 kilometer (112 miles) of international boundary between both states as a result of constructing concrete embankments. Second, Bangladesh has accused India of reducing water flow along the River Ganges, known as Padma in Bangladesh, as a result of India's construction of the Farakka Barrage across the Ganges in 1970. Dhaka has also accused Delhi of being slow in sharing data regarding river flows for flood control purposes. Bangladesh has also opposed India's plans for a $15 billion project to link rivers across the country in order to provide excess water in the north to water-deficient states in the south, which Bangladesh claims will affect river flow through the Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers systems into Bangladesh.

Tensions have been further fueled by Bangladeshi political parties using water-related tensions with India to gain electoral support, with the B.N.P. using the issue of water to discredit the opposition Awami League, which signed several treaties with India when it was the ruling party. Finally, both states have differed in their approach toward addressing water disputes, with India favoring a bilateral approach while Bangladesh has favored a multilateral approach. This was illustrated at the recent conference on "Trans-boundary Water Issues: South Asian Cooperation" organized by the International Farakka Committee (I.F.C.), where Bangladesh proposed a basin-wide approach to addressing water disputes through the creation of a Ganges River Commission or Brahmaputra River Authority involving Bangladesh, India, China, Nepal and Bhutan.

There are concerns over China's diversion of rivers from Tibet to South Asia, such as the Indus, Sutlej, and the Brahmaputra, which are critical to Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Pakistan. India has accused China of being slow in sharing information on the status of the rivers in the run up to landslides, which have caused flooding in northeastern India and Bangladesh. Beijing's construction of a barrage along the Sutlej/Langqen Tsangbo and dams along the Brahmaputra/Sang Po has also concerned Delhi, as it will allow Beijing to control and regulate the flow of water into India. The lack of any formal water-sharing agreement between Delhi and Beijing due to their disputed borders has contributed to Sino-Indian tensions over water.

Sino-Indian relations have shown significant improvement in recent years fueled by their burgeoning trade relationship, direct transport links, and China's recognition of Sikkim as Indian territory as a quid pro quo for India's recognition of Tibet as Chinese territory.

Nonetheless, both states' rapid growth rates and rising middle classes have translated into a growing global competition for resources, most notably oil and gas but also water. Water disputes coupled with suspicions emanating from India's improving relationship with the United States, China's long-standing relationship with Pakistan, and both states' quest for regional and global prominence threaten to sour any rapprochement between Asia's two rising powers.

Central Asia: The "Great Game" Over Water

While international attention on Central Asia has tended to focus on its oil and gas reserves and its role in the war on terrorism, the region is also home to several long-standing water disputes, which have the potential to escalate the region's instabilities.

While Central Asia is rich in water resources, more than 90 percent is concentrated in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan where the region's two main rivers, the Syr Darya and Amu Darya, originate. Meanwhile, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are the region's main water consumers with Uzbekistan alone consuming more than half of the region's water resources. As such, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan control the water needed by the other Central Asian states. The upstream states, however, view water as a strategic commodity as they are poorly endowed with other resources and use water to generate much of their own power needs.

The region's growing water consumption emanates from the 1960s during which time the Soviets constructed an extensive network of canals and reservoirs in order to increase cotton production in the region. Under the Soviet rule, power grids in the region were integrated under a single network so that upstream states could export electrical power to downstream states during the winter, and import from them during the summer when water was drawn for cotton production.

With the independence of the Central Asian republics, frictions have arisen over the breakdown of the Soviet system. Water flow to downstream states has fallen, significantly affecting cotton production and cooling needs during the summer, while downstream states have not met the gas and coal needs of upstream states, especially during the harsh winters. The region's growing water consumption has also reduced water levels in the Aral Sea, which is fed by the Syr Darya and Amu Darya river systems. Although the states established the Interstate Commission for Water Coordination in 1992, they have failed to implement an effective water management mechanism. Combined with inter-state tensions over disputed borders, great power competition over the region's energy resources and internal instabilities emanating from rising poverty, authoritarian rule and religious extremism, water disputes have the potential to tip the region into conflict.

A further source of instability emanates from the lack of agreement on the legal status of the Caspian Sea between the five littoral states (Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan). The Caspian Sea is the world's largest inland body of water. It is rich in sturgeon, which is harvested for the production of caviar, as well as hydrocarbon reserves, with total oil reserves (proven and possible) at 235.7 billion barrels and gas reserves (proven and possible) at 560 trillion cubic feet, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Caspian Sea was divided between Iran and the Soviet Union on the basis of the Friendship Treaty of 1921 and the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation of 1940, although it left some issues unresolved such as the protection of the local environment and development of resources on the seabed. It also failed to distinguish whether the Caspian was a "sea" or "lake," the former of which would lead to an equidistant division of the body of water under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea while the latter would lead to joint development, characterized as the condominium approach.

Following the Soviet collapse, the six littoral states have adopted differing positions on the status of the Caspian, which have shifted with the growing importance of energy resources in the region. Notably, Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have favored sharing the surface waters and dividing the seabed based on the principle of the median line, which has been opposed by Iran and Turkmenistan. Furthermore, Russia has favored a bilateral "phased" approach in resolving the dispute while Iran has preferred a multilateral condominium approach whereby all five littoral states collectively agree on developing the resources on the seabed, with either joint development or equal division of the sea. By dividing the sea using the median line approach, the seabed would be divided between Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Iran as 28.4 percent, 21 percent, 19 percent, 18 percent and 13.6 percent respectively; under the condominium approach favored by Iran, each state would receive 20 percent of the seabed.

Tensions have been further fanned by the emergence of the region as a global energy flashpoint. With the inauguration of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan crude oil pipeline in July 2006 and discussions to extend the pipeline to Kazakhstan, the United States has a vested interest in supporting Azerbaijan's and Kazakhstan's positions in the Caspian Sea dispute. Meanwhile, Russia has opposed this pipeline project, which undermines its monopoly on transporting energy resources from the region while both Iran and Russia have voiced concerns over the growing U.S. presence in their backyard.


Approximately 20 percent of Asians do not have easy access to water while almost 60 river basins in Asia have been identified as potential flashpoints for inter-state conflict according to a joint study by the United Nations and the University of Oregon. The rapid development, growing populations and long-standing inter-state and internal instabilities in South Asia, Central Asia, and the Mekong Sub-region in Southeast Asia increases the likelihood of water-related conflict in these regions and makes any water-related tensions in these areas of wider regional and potentially global significance.

The development of international water dispute mechanisms has been slow, as evinced by the fact that the "1997 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses" has failed to muster the 35 votes needed for it to take effect. This gives added importance to those pushing for the development of a pan-Asian multilateral system for arbitration on inter-state water disputes. As the recent conflagration of hostilities in Sri Lanka demonstrates, water disputes can add fuel to the fire of long-standing historical animosities.

Report Drafted By:
Chietigj Bajpaee

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By Dr. Subhash Kapila

Introductory Observations

The recent Israel-Hezbollah armed conflict lasting for nearly a month should be taken as a wake-up call by the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation )NATO). The niggardly responses by EU-NATO countries to provide troops for UN forces for the buffer-zone in Southern Lebanon is indicative that they are still not seized with the realization that the security of Israel is also a EU-NATO imperative.

Israel so far has effectively countered military threats to its security from its hostile Islamic nation’s neighbourhood. The United States has stood by Israel strongly both for strategic and political reasons.

The Islamic World today is in a tizzy that for the first time a Muslim Arab armed militia as opposed to an Arab government could blunt Israel’s offensives against Hezbollah in Lebanon. This is more so evident in Pakistan where Pakistani intellectuals have gone to town extolling this development.

The military reality is that Israel’s offensives against the Hezbollah were blunted not by any divine miracle or by any decline in the military effectiveness of Israel’s military forces. It happened that unlike in the past the Hezbollah was militarily reinforced on a much larger scale in terms of rocketry firepower by its military patrons, namely Syria and more noticeably Iran.

While the United States seems to be sensitive to the above developments the European countries do not seem to recognize the dangers of the shift in military balance.

The increasing potency of Syria and Iran as “regional challenger states” or “regional spoiler states” through proxy Islamist religious armed militias should be a worrisome development for EU-NATO countries.

Israel’s Strategic Significance for EU-NATO Security

Israel’s strategic significance for EU-NATO security could be assessed on the following lines:

The East Mediterranean Littoral of West Asia has always been considered as crucial for EU-NATO security.
Israel is located squarely on this East Mediterranean Littoral.
Israel breaks the continuity of a hostile anti-West East Mediterranean Littoral.
Israel is the only foothold that the United States and EU-NATO have in entire West Asia which today stands ranged against the West.
Israel is the only island of stability in West Asia as the only democracy and with vibrant political liberalist institutions.
Israel’s military strength and reputation for a state with a will to use power to defend its national security has prevented a take over of the East Mediterranean littoral by Islamist religious militias of the Hezbollah and Hamas.
In a strategic sense, Israel guards the “Eastern Approaches” to EU-NATO countries and also provides a base for Western military operations.
Therefore the EU-NATO countries cannot be oblivious to Israel’s security. Israeli security is very much their imperative too.

Interlinked with the above is the turbulence in the sizeable millions of Islamic expatriate communities especially in Western Europe. The increasing fundamentalism emerging there is also linked to West Asia and Pakistan.

EU-NATO Countries Need to Be United With the United States in Approaches to Emerging Threats in West Asia

West Asia today is engulfed in greater violence and instability than ever before. With failed or failing governments the control of Arab countries is shifting to the hands of Islamist fundamentalist armed militias or similar militant organisations. West Asia is in a state of violent ferment and today radically opposed to the United States and the West.States like Syria and Iran which perceive threats of pre-emptive military intervention by the United States are employing proxies like the Hezbollah and Hamas to keep the United States diverted and occupied in other theatres.

A major part of their success, towards this aim, arises from keeping the United States and EU-NATO disunited in their approaches to West Asian security challenges. Similar divisions in approaches within the EU-NATO combine are exploited.

This is reflected in the respective approaches of the United States and EU-NATO to the question of the Iranian nuclear programme issues, the UN Resolutions enforcement in West Asia and particularly in Lebanon and lastly the present challenge of finding strong contingents from EU-NATO countries to ensure the evacuation of Hezbollah forces from Southern Lebanon.

The present roots of instability in West Asia now seem to lie in Iran and Syria primarily. The Russian and Chinese strategic interests in both Syria and Iran cannot be ignored. The Chinese connection to the increased rocket attacks by the Hezbollah in Israel, facilitated by Iran, needs detailed investigation.

Concluding Observations

Israel is crucial for West Asian security in relation to the national security interests of EU-NATO countries as it is for the United States. So it is also for the rest of the world including India and Japan.

Flowing from the blunted outcome of the recent Israel-Hezbollah armed conflict it will be dangerous for the Western countries to let an impression grow in the Islamic World that Israel can be check-mated or brought to a military stand-still by Islamist religious armed militias fighting proxy wars. Such a development would carry the worst strategic and military connotations in an already explosive region to the disadvantage of the United States and Europe.

The consequent impact on USA and EU-NATO national security interests would be disastrous.

The EU-NATO countries must therefore recognize that Israel’s security is very much their imperative along with the imperative to forge a united USA-EU-NATO front to effectively deal with West Asia’s emerging security challenges.

Failure of the above of the United States and EU-NATO to unitedly coordinate their approaches may ultimately throw up a situation where Israel for its own security and survival may have no other option but to go in for use of nuclear weapons against states endangering or threatening its survival.

(The author is an International Relations and Strategic Affairs analyst. He is the Consultant, Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group.