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Conference Paper: China’s Water Wars in the Himalayan Basin States: A Trans-boundary Security Threat

By Air Marshal VPS Rana PVSM VSM(Retd)

CSF-SICCSL RRU-NMF Two-Day Conference on

Xi Jinping’s Third Term: Implications for

Global Order & India

Air Marshal VPS Rana served in the Indian Air Force for 38 years at various Operational and Administrative appointments. He retired as ‘Air Officer in Charge Administration’ (AOA),the apex level appointment of IAF Administration. He served as ‘COVID Task Force Commander’ of IAF for coordinating the entire spectrum of management of the crisis, including procurement of supplies from abroad, setting up of quarantine and isolation facilities for foreign evacuees, armed forces personnel as well as civilians, setting up of special hospitals and medical facilities, and managing the entire healthcare system of IAF. He contributed immensely in various operations including Kargil war and Operations Parakram. He has been an instructor to middle and senior level officers of armed forces at Defence Services Staff Colleges in India as well as Zambia, Africa. He also served as Commandant of Air Force Administrative College. He was instrumental in creation of specialised infrastructure for induction of advanced aircraft and systems in India in, besides rapid infrastructure development in the NE region for aerial connectivity as ‘Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Air Force Works)’ and ‘Director General (Administration).His qualifications include Post Graduation in two Disciplines - Defense & Strategic Studies,and Plant breeding & Genetics; Post Graduate diplomas in two disciplines - Public Administration and Business Administration; and M Phil in Social Science.He is a freelance environmentalist, Policy Analyst, Writer and social worker. He is presently working as Chief Advisor of 'Himalay Unnati Mission' a global initiative to Preserve, Foster and Resurrect the Himalayan heritages in all Himalayan states through collective wisdom, research, policy and action. He is recipient of the highest Presidential award for distinguished service of an exceptional order, Param Vishisht Seva Medal in addition to the Vishisht Seva Medal.


The 14th Five year plan (2021-25) approved by the Chinese Plenary in March 2021, envisions some of the ambitious goals to be achieved in next few decades. One of the quantified objective was to construct a massive 60 GW hydroelectric dam over Yarlung Zangbo (Tsangpo) river near the border at Arunachal Pradesh. Considering its constantly strained relationship with China since Doklam followed by Galwan clash and Eastern Ladakh face off, Indian concern seems genuine. India’s response to construct its biggest dam in Arunachal Pradesh and to revive many of its stalled projects in the region, is indicative of its worry and urgency to quickly prepare to mitigate against any such eventuality.

China is on the spree of building large number of dams in ‘Tibet’ with the intent of diverting the water from ‘south to north’. China has almost 20 per cent of world population and only 7 percent of global fresh water availability. Insecurities related to water therefore, is understandable to some extent. However, its aspirations to be super power and compete with US is well known. Its overtures with all its neighbours and other world powers, are indicative of its expansionist approach.

Developing infrastructure at borders is clear indication of its military intent to dominate India and exert pressure. Its financial and political support to Pakistan ,Nepal and Bangladesh, seems an attempt to encircle India, whom it sees as competitor. India’s emergence in new world order, positive economic outlook and its closeness to the USA seems to worry China. With this background it is safe to assume that ‘Water Wars’ between India and China is a serious trans boundary security threat.

Read the full Conference paper at this link:

China’s Water Wars in the Himalayan Basin States A Trans-boundary Security Threat
Download PDF • 2.32MB

(Air Marshal VPS Rana PVSM VSM (Retd) is a Distinguished Member at C3S. The views expressed by the author do not reflect the views of C3S.)

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