Water Wars at the Top of the World? Hydro and Geo-politics among China, India and Bangladesh


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When: Nov 3 2016 - 12:00pm until Nov 3 2016 - 1:30pm
Where: 1819 L St NW, Sixth Floor Conference Room, Washington DC, 20036

Water Wars at the Top of the World? Hydro and Geo-politics among China, India and Bangladesh

An Asia Pacific Foreign Policy and Defense Seminar featuring:

Dr. Satu Limaye
Director, East-West Center in Washington

Nilanthi Samaranayake
Research Scientist, Center for Strategic Studies, CNA

Dr. Joel Wuthnow
Research Fellow, Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs, National Defense University

From left to right: Dr. Satu Limaye, Nilanthi Samaranayake, and Dr. Joel Wuthnow

Recent news that China plans to block a tributary of the Brahmaputra River to complete dam construction, coming soon after India’s government suggested that it was reconsidering its commitments to the Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan in response to cross-border militant raids from Pakistan, fuses hydropolitics and geopolitics. Such developments shine a spotlight on the Brahmaputra as a potential source of conflict between China and India, with downstream implications for Bangladesh. China and India have previously fought a war over contested territory through which the Brahmaputra flows, while Bangladesh faces human security pressures in this basin that will be magnified by upstream river practices. Despite the potential threats to regional stability over dam-building activities and water diversion plans, no bilateral or multilateral water management accord exists in the Brahmaputra River basin.

To interpret recent events and suggest possible mechanisms for managing respective interests on the Brahmaptura, a CNA study team will share insights from their 18-month study of the Brahmaputra River basin entitled Water Resource Competition in the Brahmaputra River Basin: China, India and Bangladesh. By drawing on field research in China, India, and Bangladesh, Nilanthi Samaranayake, Joel Wuthnow and Satu Limaye considered the context of recent developments and suggest possibilities for greater cooperation across the basin.

 For more images, please visit the album for this event on the East-West Center's Flickr page. 

Dr. Satu Limaye is Director of the East-West Center in Washington, D.C He is also a Senior Advisor at the Center for Naval Analyses. He is the creator and director of the Asia Matters for America initiative (www.AsiaMattersforAmerica.org), an interactive resource for credible, non-partisan information, graphics, analysis and news on U.S.-Asia Pacific relations at the national, state and local levels; Founding Editor of the Asia-Pacific Bulletin series; an editor of the journal Global Asia and on the international advisory council of the journal Contemporary Southeast Asia. He is also on the advisory council for the ASEAN Studies Center at American University and the International Forum for Democratic Studies’ Research Council. Dr. Limaye publishes and speaks on U.S.-Asia relations and is a reviewer for numerous publications, foundations and fellowship programs. From October 2005 to February 2007 he was a Research Staff Member of the Strategy and Resources Division at the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), and from July 1998 to October 2005 Director of Research and Publications at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS), a direct reporting unit of U.S. Pacific Command. He has been an Abe Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and a Henry Luce Scholar and Research Fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) in Tokyo. He is a magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Georgetown University and received his doctorate from Oxford University (Magdalen College) where he was a George C. Marshall Scholar.

Nilanthi Samaranayake is the project director of the CNA study, Water Resource Competition in the Brahmaputra River Basin: China, India, and Bangladesh. She is a strategic studies analyst at CNA, a non-profit research organization in Arlington, VA. Her research focuses on South Asia and Indian Ocean security. Prior to joining CNA, Samaranayake completed a fellowship at the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) where she investigated Sri Lanka’s deepening economic, military, and diplomatic ties with China. She has authored book chapters on the smaller countries of South Asia and their relations with China; the U.S.-China-India strategic triangle in the Indian Ocean region; and island states in the Indian Ocean. Samaranayake’s analysis has been featured in Asia Pacific Bulletin, World Politics Review, South Asia Journal, The National Interest, The Diplomat, and YaleGlobal among other publications. She has appeared in media such as Al Jazeera, South China Morning Post, and Foreign Policy. Samaranayake analyzed public opinion for a decade at Pew Research Center in Washington. While there, she twice directed the quadrennial survey, “America’s Place in the World.” Samaranayake holds an M.Sc. in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She can be contacted at [email protected]

Dr. Joel Wuthnow is a research fellow in the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs within the Institute for National Strategic Studies at NDU. His research focus includes Chinese foreign and security policy, Chinese military affairs, U.S.-China relations, and strategic developments in East Asia. Prior to joining INSS, Dr. Wuthnow was a China analyst at CNA, a federally-funded research and development center in Arlington, VA. Earlier, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the China and the World Program at Princeton University and a pre-doctoral research fellow at The Brookings Institution. Dr. Wuthnow's articles and essays have appeared in a variety of publications, such as China Quarterly, Chinese Journal of International Politics, Joint Force Quarterly, Foreign Policy, The Asan Forum, Issues & Studies, and NDU's Strategic Forum series. His book, Chinese Diplomacy and the UN Security Council (Routledge, 2013) was hailed by Survival as providing an "important insight" into China's role in global governance. He is a member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. Dr. Wuthnow holds degrees from Princeton University (A.B., summa cum laude, in Public and International Affairs), Oxford University (M.Phil. in Modern Chinese Studies), and Columbia University (M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D. in Political Science). He is proficient in Mandarin.

Primary Contact Info:
Name: Sarah Wang
Phone: 202-327-9755