Water wars. Part I


Traditionally, the region attracted attention around the world. Huge reserves of oil, the most important transportation hubs, rapidly growing populations, relics of the world religions - all of this is there.

Since the beginning of the so-called "Arab Spring" - a chain of coups d'etat provoked with help of the United States - the tension in the region is growing. Analyzing the events there, experts commonly refer to source of instability religious conflict the extremism and the struggle for control over energy resources. All this is certainly true. But in view of commentators of all stripes usually do not get another key factor that may be more important than all others: fresh water. Its number in the region is rapidly declining. This process is directly proportional to the exacerbation of conflicts on religious, political and economic grounds. From 2003 to 2009, the year the amount of fresh water in the region dropped by 144 billion cubic meters, which is comparable to the volume of the Dead Sea. In arid countries water has always been the most important resource. But in an environment where the resource is rapidly declining, everyone wants at all costs to take it under control. If you look at a map spread of the terrorist group "Islamic State", we can say with certainty that the radicals have took control of not only the oil fields, but also the largest waterways. How can we fight a war in the desert with those who control the water? Some experts do rule out the possibility of poisoning largest rivers by extremists, namely the Tigris and the Euphrates. In this case, millions of people could die. Fresh water will become if not the currency then certainly one of the most valuable resources. The population of the earth is increasing rapidly, the middle of the XXI century, the number of people living under water shortage will exceed 4 billion. This means that we may be faced with a new type of wars for water.

Here is the list of countries with the largest reserves of water. Note in the top five of the union of the three countries who are part of BRICS: Brazil, Russia, China, just below - India. In addition to the common political and economic interests, these states are united one more thing: perhaps in the future they will have together to protect our natural wealth: fresh water.

For example China’s domination of Tibet is the key to understanding the approaching geo-political crisis that is likely to emerge in the next few decades. The domination of Tibet means that China controls the Himalayan headways of the main rivers of India and South-east Asia that provide sustenance to the agriculture and energy of these immense territories. Seldom is this strategic importance of Tibet realised. With China facing problems of irrigation and drought, the Beijing leadership will not hesitate to use the Himalayan headwaters for whatever manner they deem apt for China’s interests. There can be no question that China is not restrained by any moral or neighbourly considerations, despite the rapport China now seemingly has with Russia and Central Asia. China’s leadership is guided by a ruthless realpolitik that considers China’s interests alone. When faced with any question as to China’s interests especially in regard to territory and resources, the façade of good neighbourliness quickly drops, as in the example of China’s ongoing territorial disputes with India.

Chinese Belligerence

If the recent history of China is considered there is little room for optimism regarding China’s peaceful intentions when its interests are in question.


During the 1960s, despite the supposedly fraternal relations existing between two nominally “communist” states, border disputes between the USSR and China erupted into military conflict. In 1960 there were 400 border clashes between Russian and Chinese troops, in 1962 more than 5000, in 1963 more than 4000. The biggest clash came on 2 March 1969, when Chinese forces attacked Russian troops on the disputed uninhabited island of Zhenbao (Damansky in Russian) in the Ussuri River. Mao as a show of defiance contrived the incident. A Chinese elite unit ambushed Soviet troops, killing 32. The Russians responded on the night of March 14-15, bringing up heavy artillery and tanks, and firing missiles 20 kms into China. Around 60 Russian and 800 Chinese were killed during the engagement. A CIA aerial photograph showed the Chinese side had been shelled so extensively as to look like a pot-marked moon landscape. Mao was taken aback by the massive Russian response and feared an invasion. Now however, it is China that stands in a position of strength militarily, while Russian fortunes have declined as the present regime continues in its efforts to overcome the chaos of the post-Soviet era and the Yeltsin interregnum.

In 1979, when the friendship treaty between China and the USSR was still operative, China invaded Vietnam as a show of defiance towards the USSR, a gesture intended to demonstrate that China would no longer be subordinate to Russia. China invaded Vietnam in 1979 as a grand gesture for the repudiation of the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance, which was due for renewal. Clause number six of the Treaty stated that if neither signatory announced their intention to terminate the treaty during its final year, the alliance would automatically be extended for another five years. However, the Treaty had not been designed to secure Superpower status for China, nor even as a friendly alignment between two communist states, but to maintain a position of subjugation and outright humiliation. The Chinese regarded the Treaty as maintaining Russian “hegemony” over China. The victim of China’s show of strength was Vietnam, enmity between Vietnam and China going back centuries as the Vietnamese had long struggled to maintain their sovereignty against Chinese domination. Notably, the USSR had signed a friendship treaty with Vietnam in 1978, as the basis for the containment of China in the region.


The territorial enmity that has existed and continues to exist between China and India is likely to become one of the most acute areas of crisis in any upcoming conflict over water resources. Through the control of the Himalayan headwaters China controls the water sources of India and much of South-east Asia. This is already causing major disquiet, as will be considered below.

China’s border disputes with India during the period of 1960-62 left 3000 Indians dead. Bill Emmott, former editor of The Economist, and a member of the globalist think-tank the Trilateral Commission states of the conflict:
“In 1962 China and India fought a border war that humiliated India and left an enduring legacy of bitterness and suspicion. Both countries are now increasing their military spending and trying to modernise their armed forces. The border dispute remains unresolved. China claims an entire Indian state, Arunachal Pradesh, which borders southern Tibet and is roughly the size of Portugal. India claims that China is occupying 15,000 square miles of what is rightfully India – in Aksai Chin, an almost uninhabited plateau high in the Himalayas.”

The Chinese are not about to let the disputed areas rest, and again here is a lesson if it is thought that China has repudiated its territorial claims in the interests of good neighbourliness. So far in recent years everything has gone China’s way.

“On the face of it the two sides have since made progress. A border crossing was opened to trade in 2006 for the first time since the war. That year, however, the Chinese ambassador to Delhi caused outrage by publicly emphasising that China claims the whole of Arunachal Pradesh. “Ten months ago a confidence-building visit to China by more than 100 Indian officials had to be cancelled after China acted in a typically provocative way: it refused to grant a visa to a member of the Indian delegation from Arunachal Pradesh on the grounds that he was Chinese and did not need one.”

China has shared a 4,000-kilometre-long “Line of Actual Control” with India since 1959, stretching from northwest Kashmir to Burma. China claims about 90,000 square kilometres in northeast India, mainly Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing calls “South Tibet”. India claims 43,180 square kilometres in China's Aksai Chin region in eastern Kashmir.

So far from the Chinese leadership being too pragmatic and rational to resort to war, as some Sinotologists are currently claiming, China has used force even after the demise of Mao. Additionally, China has just as vigorously continued to maintain its claims over disputed territory with its neighbours, including Russia, Vietnam, India, has invaded Tibet, and has displaced Russian influence in Mongolia and is doing likewise in central Asia and in the border areas inside Russia herself.
Chinese intransigence in relation to India for example continues to be played out in diplomatic confrontations, as shown in ongoing negotiations over the disputed areas between China and India.

The 13th round of negotiations between China and India over August 7th to 8th 2009 where China’s delegation was led by special representative State Councillor Dai Bingguo, and the Indian delegation as led by National Security Adviser M. K. Narayanan was intended to work out specific details on how to proceed with negotiations on border demarcation and delineation. In other words, although the border talks had begun in 2003, the basis for negotiations has still not even been agreed upon. There was much emphasis on the cordial atmosphere and a ‘shared vision’ between the two Asian powers, yet India and China continue the build up of forces along the disputed borer area.

Despite the political rhetoric about the ‘shared vision’ between China and India arising from this 13th round of talks as stated in Government press releases, both powers remain at states of permanent tension over a number of issues that are likely to be exacerbated in the near future. For instance even the current world financial recession resulted in a ban on some Chinese imports, despite China being India’s largest trading partner, upon which the basis of any relaxed Sino-India relations must exist. In April 2009 Beijing blocked a $US2.9 billion Asian Development Bank (ADB) loan to India that included $US60 million for a flood control project in the disputed Arunachal Pradesh. External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna stated that Indian would not in future be “putting her palm out” for funding from international agencies but would use internal sources.