Water Diplomacy in the Era of Globalization


  • Identify the context first and ponder whether the statement is absolutely or conditionally true. Here the theme is a statement of fact and thus, the objective of this essay is not to critically analyze the topic, but to elaborate and establish it with some topical examples.
  • Establish the priceless value of omnipotent resource for the nations all over the planet and the issues arising out of it in the global arena.


  • Elaborate the statement by defining the Water as a resource. Define the term Diplomacy as the act of managing international relations and the term Globalization as the process of international integration arising from the interchange of world views, products, ideas, and other aspects of culture.

Main Body:

  • Firstly establish the significance of Water down the ages. Since the dawn of civilization river has been the artery of cooperation and shared prosperity. No wonder, all the greatest ancient civilizations like the Indus valley civilization (along the river Indus), The Egyptian civilization (river Nile), the Mesopotamian civilization (river Tigris), all developed and prospered along rivers. Maritime international trade became the bridge between oriental and occidental.
  • Examine the different sources of water like glaciers, Rain water, Sea Water and how does water flow from one medium to another through Water Cycle. State the different uses of Water in the life of an individual.

Elaborate the value of Water in the 21st Century. Why water has become significant now?

  • Increasing population and demand for water: As the world population has crossed 7bn, per capita water availability has steadily declined.
  • Agriculture Demand: Hybrid seeds, multi cropping and water intensive methods has increased demand of water (especially in developing south Asian and African countries), who still use traditional irrigation methods.
  • Climate Change: Climate change and associated extreme events like heat waves, EL-NINO has led to fluctuation in river regime, forcing countries for construction of dams.
  • Industrialization and Energy demand: Rapid growth of industry has led to increased demand for water and electricity. Countries have adopted multipurpose river water project to cater to the twin demand and in the process depriving the lower riparian countries of their fair share of water.
  • Ocean resources: Advancement in technology has made the resources of deep sea available to man (e.g Poly metallic nodule, off shore oil and gas, etc.). This has triggered a maddening race among countries to grab a share (e.g Arctic sea resource).
  • Geostrategic dominance: As more than 80% global trade happens in sea line of communication, big countries are increasingly coming in conflict to secure their competitive advantage.

Geopolitical significance for India

  • Oceans and Trade – India, given its natural sea advantage and dominant role in world trade (medieval times), made water diplomacy to forge strong relationship in Indian Ocean Region and beyond. Since Maritime Disputes
  • South China Sea: Chinese historical claim of 9-dash line and construction of artificial islands without consultation of maritime neighbours (Recent verdict by International arbitration court).
  • Indian Ocean region: Given its strategic importance in international trade and rich resource endowment, it has become a geopolitical hit bed. Presence of young emerging economies and associated demand has attracted all global heavy powers to gain comparative advantage (India’s blue water navy, Project Mausam, Chinese maritime silk route, etc.)

What is hindering diplomatic solution in era of Globalization?

Conflict over water brings an irony in international political discourse. As the world is progressively converging into a global village (trade, communication, culture, cuisine), nations have hardly shown their global perspective while dealing issues over water.

  • Domestic politics: As most of the countries have transitioned to democratic governance, the government of the day has to be answerable to the domestic audience. Hence Governments have behaved more conservatively to be in good terms with domestic audience. In case of India “Water” is a state subject, Hence it gives immense power to states, even while dealing transnational rivers in bilateral forum (Teesta water sharing blocked by West Bengal).
  • Hydrological data: Given the dynamic and strategic nature of hydrological data, Nations consider it as a breach of sovereignty to share hydrological data with other riparian countries, leading to suspicion and conflict. Despite several agreements, China has repeatedly failed to share proper hydrological data of the Brahmaputra , with India.
  • Regional rivalry: Whether it is Egypt-Ethiopia or India-Pakistan, the regional rivalry has overshadowed bilateral relationship, hindering cooperation.
  • Absence of global framework on Transboundary Rivers: Unlike UN laws on seas, there is no legal framework for sustainable sharing of Trans Boundary Rivers.
  • Voluntary nature of existing treaties: The recent Chinese response to International court of Arbitration on South China Sea, highlights the lack of teeth of global institution to handle these issues.

What are the Impacts of Water Conflicts?

  • Human suffering: Given the indispensable nature of water, water conflicts and related agricultural drought has led to famine and forced migration of people (e.g water scarcity and famine in Middle east has led to huge out migration).
  • Environmental damage: Change in course of river and construction of big dams has reduced the natural cleaning capacity of rivers. It has blocked the essential silt carried by river. Reduced water flow has badly impacted the flora and fauna (e.g Gangetic dolphin, death of mangrove species in sundarvan).
  • Conflict: The conflict over water is leading to conflicting situation, bringing countries at the verge of war.

Way forward

  • It is better to sweat in peace than to bleed in war. Water diplomacy, which aims to prevent or peacefully resolve (emerging) conflicts related to water is a potent tool to resolve water related conflicts. It involves proper understanding of political, historical, social, cultural, economic and environmental linkage of water and endeavors negotiation, conciliation and mediation through multitrack diplomatic channel.
  • The successful model of International commission for protection of Danube river, which is (shared by Germany, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Ukraine, Bosnia) is a good case in hand, where conflicting interests have been peacefully reconciled.
  • The successful 50 year of operation of Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan stands a good example of water diplomacy, where even intractable neighbours can be brought on board for common purpose.
  • Similarly India’s recent resolution of dispute over Newmoore Island and Barakar water with Bangladesh should become a global template, where big countries must stand to bigger responsibility to peacefully resolve disputes.

A principle of Transboundary river basin management, involving mandatory notification, consultation and negotiation must be institutionalized, where countries and cooperate and exchange information.

Along with this a stronger binding agreement on international waters must be brought in (in lines of Kyoto protocol), to ensure free passage and use of international seas as “Global common”.


  • The era of globalization demands more interdependence and cooperation in every field. Hence water diplomacy must be used as a potential tool to converge various national interests for enabling sustainable water use as a matter of human right. At the same time advanced scientific techniques to enhance water use efficiency and generate fresh water (e.g. desalinization, air moisture condenser) should become a major plank of ensuring water security. The politics of water must be used constructively for benefit of mankind rather than increasing friction and animosity.
  • Conclude it with the summary of your ideas and examples. Overall content must be written within the theme of the essay.
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