Water sharing in the Himalayas: How do the India-China border skirmishes affect the future of transboundary water cooperation on South Asian rivers?

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The recent border skirmishes between India and China have brought to the surface the growing prospect of transboundary water conflict as an emerging flashpoint in the Himalayas. While India has bilateral water sharing treaties with all its neighbours in South Asia, the last decade has highlighted the challenge of encouraging and including China as an important stakeholder within transboundary water governance in the region. However, a disputed land border between the Asian giants, new rounds of skirmishes between their respective armies and the reluctance of both countries to move beyond bilateral approaches on water sharing has stymied transboundary cooperation on all major river basins in Himalayan South Asia. Our panel of water experts will examine the impact of recent developments on the prospects for peace based on current water cooperation; as well as the future of transboundary water agreements in the larger South Asian region.

ZAFAR ADEEL is Professor of Professional Practice at the School of Resource and Environmental Management and Executive Director of the Pacific Water Research Centre, Simon Fraser University, Canada. Adeel is interested in environmental policy formulation and governance in its broadest sense. His current research interests lie at the intersection of water security with the international development agenda, particularly the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He serves as the Series Editor for a book series by Springer: “Water Security in a New World.” He also serves on the editorial boards of Sustainability Science (Springer) and New Water Policy and Practice Journal (PSO). He has served with the United Nations for over 18 years with progressively increasing responsibilities in the international development and research environment. This includes a 10-year tenure as the Director of United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) in Hamilton, Canada. Adeel has helped develop networks of scientists in countries with water challenges, particularly those in Africa, Middle East and Asia.

NIMMI KURIAN is Professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi and Faculty Advisor, India China Institute, The New School, New York. She was Fellow (2008-2010) and India Academic Representative (2010-2015), India China Institute, The New School, New York. Her research interests include Asian borderlands, comparative regionalism and subregionalism, Indian foreign policy, constituent diplomacy and transboundary water governance. She is one of the contributors to the India Country Report as part of the Bangladesh China India Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM EC) Joint Study Group, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. She is also part of the Asian Borderlands Research Initiative, a network of scholars interested in the reconfiguration of theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of borderlands.

DAVID MICHEL a Senior Researcher with SIPRI’s Environment of Peace 2022 initiative. His work explores the cooperative opportunities and potential security risks posed by mounting pressures on the world’s shared natural resources, and the possibilities for collective institutions to meet global environmental challenges. Prior to joining SIPRI in May 2020 he served as Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Climate and Security, Senior Manager in the Transboundary Water Management Department with the Stockholm International Water Institute, and as Director of the Environmental Security Program at the Stimson Center. He has advised the US Department of State and the National Intelligence Council on transboundary water governance, food security, and climate policy issues, and held fellowships with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and the United States Institute of Peace.

BHARAT PUNJABI is a Research Fellow at the Global Cities Institute at the University of Toronto. He has taught courses in economic geography, political ecology, water management, Asian urbanization, and the political economy of development at institutions such as the University of Western Ontario, the University of Toronto and the University of Guelph. His research has been funded by the International Development Research Centre, the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute and other organizations. Dr. Punjabi’s research interests include and intersect Indian urbanization and water policy, the role of institutions in economic development and metropolitan governance in India. Dr. Punjabi is presently working towards a monograph on the theme of water policy and governance in large Indian mega regions. This work is based on his dissertation and current field research in large mega regions in India. Dr. Punjabi is also a visiting fellow at the Indian Council for Research in International Economic Relations (ICRIER) in New Delhi.


Zafar Adeel
Professor of Professional Practice, School of Resource and Environmental Management and Executive Director, Pacific Water Research Centre, Simon Fraser University, Canada

Nimmi Kurian
Professor, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, India

David Michel
Senior Researcher, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Stockholm, Sweden

Bharat Punjabi
Research Fellow, Global Cities Institute and Lecturer, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy

Main Sponsor

Asian Institute


Institute for Water Innovation, Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering

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