Tibet’s water and regional security

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Tibet is strategically important to China due to its centrality in Asia’s hydrological cycle. Tibet is known as the ‘Third Pole,’ for having the most frozen fresh water outside the North and South Poles. It is also called the ‘The Water Tower of Asia’ for being the source of major rivers that flow into India, Bangladesh, China, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam. Scholar Brahma Chellaney wrote in his book entitled “Water” that “Control over the ‘blue gold’ wealth of the Tibetan Plateau makes China a potential water power in the way Saudi Arabia is an oil power.”
 
China is engaged in a number of dam construction and water diversion projects on the rivers that emanate from the Tibetan plateau, such as the Salween and Mekong rivers, sparking criticism that these moves could be devastating for downstream communities. As the populations of South and Southeast Asia continue to grow, water scarcity will become more acute, which could lead to conflicts between China and its neighbors over water resources.
 
Currently, there exists no regional framework for these nations to discuss or negotiate over water resources. A treaty or framework would create a system of modern water rights based around an integrated water resource act; ideally, it would include all Asian countries that depend upon the Tibetan Plateau for their water. 
 
Recommendations
 
The Tibet resolution: Given the unimaginable incidents of self-immolations in Tibet and the Chinese unwillingness to address the genuine grievances of the Tibetan people, the Asian countries should send a strong message by passing resolutions expressing support for the people of Tibet. 
 
The Tibetan Policy: The Asian countries should explore ways to strengthen the Act to take into account new developments in Tibetan politics, including the devolution of political power by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and the election of full democratic governance in exile. It should consider enhancing their relationship with the Central Tibetan Administration. Lastly, the Act should clarify their policy on the succession or reincarnation of the next Dalai Lama, for which the officially atheist Chinese government is attempting to claim exclusive authority.
 
Human Rights Dialogue: The Asian Countries should speak on Human Rights violation in Tibet and China as there is a dire need for an open and transparent display of what the Administration is doing in concrete terms on the issue of human rights in China and Tibet. 
 
News blackout in Tibet: China’s censorship and information and communication blockade, specifically in Tibet, does not enable the world to know about the reality of the Tibetan situation. Asian Countries should fund robustly the Tibetan language services. They should urge their Embassies and consulates in China to expand their outreach to the Tibetan communities and monitoring of the Tibetan situation. It should train Tibetan language speakers to monitor Tibetan blogs and social media sites. 
 
Tibet’s water and regional security: Countries bordering Tibet should investigate Chinese interference in their internal affairs. They should also assess strategically and respond to Chinese ambitions to China’s South West, as it has been doing with the South China Sea to China’s South East. 

The Asian countries should encourage and  development a regional framework on water security, in relation to the major rivers of Asia that flow from the Tibetan Plateau and are subject to current and potential Chinese dam and diversion projects.


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