Desecuritising Himalayan river basins: the contribution of multi-stakeholder dialogues
Douglas Hill (University of Otago)
Paper short abstract:
This paper analyses key factors affecting transboundary water cooperation in the Brahmaputra basin, drawing from the author's experience in participating in a range of stakeholder dialogues and capacity building workshops.
Paper long abstract:
While transboundary water resources have long been subject to inter-state and intra-state disputes in South Asia, it is arguable that in the recent period the contestation over how water should be used and understood in India's borderlands has intensified at a variety of scales. As this paper shows, the singular focus on hydropower as a resource to be harnessed for national security and economic progress is epitomised by the proposed acceleration of large-scale hydropower in the Brahmaputra basin. Here, ambitious plans under the guise of water and energy security, lead to the dis-embedding of water from its localised biophysical and socio-cultural contexts. In analysing the competition for water resources, most accounts treat the state as a unitary entity of singular purpose that in dissenting perspectives is counter-posed to the wishes of 'the people'. When dealing with the geopolitics of regional water-sharing, commentaries are often unabashedly nationalist in tone and frame arguments around a unified national interest. In contesting the orthodox view of how we might understand the role of dams in the Brahmaputra's geopolitics, this paper analyses key factors affecting transboundary water cooperation, drawing from the author's experience in participating in a range of stakeholder dialogues and capacity building workshops. In particular, the analysis concentrates on several examples of multi-track diplomacy, particularly those initiated by non-state actors, because it is asserted that these dialogues are currently a more effective way to generate trust and potentially enhance cooperation, than a sole reliance upon Track 1 mechanisms in the Brahmaputra Basin.
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