Terrorism is one of the most destructive mode of asymmetric warfare in the modern world. It has certain characteristics:
- It is carried out to spread terror in the hearts of unarmed population.
- It carries a threat of unprecedented damage – an LeT suicide-bombing squad may kill 3 Indian civilians in J&K, but carries a threat of potentially killing thousands by repeating such heinous acts elsewhere. Due to this threat, it ties up significant law-and-order enforcement machinery of state – witness Indian security apparatus tied down in J&K in large numbers.
- It is usually motivated by an expansionist ideology – Jihadi’s are fueled by fundamentalist traits of Islam and Maoists by communism.
- It does not recognize any universal law – any civilian, by any means, is a target. The brutality perpetrated by terrorism is also not bound by any universal declaration of human rights, or any such legalities. Witness Maoists killing Indian policeman, cutting open stomach and planting IED inside the mutilated body.
- It allows deniability to the mastermind. Witness LeT being in the front, whereas Pakistan army and ISI continuously denies any involvement.
China’s plundering of Tibetan water resources is nothing but terrorism. For the detailed reasons explained below, I am indebted to Claude Arpi, Professor Brahma Chellaney and Charlton Lewis.
China occupies Tibet since 1950. Tibetan plateau is the place of origin for some of the most important and largest rivers in the continent of Asia. Note that Asia is the driest continent, in terms of freshwater availability per capita. The rivers originating in Tibet sustains 85% of Asia’s, and hence 50% of world’s, population. Brahmaputra (Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet) sustains India’s North-east and Bangladesh. Indus sustains India’s North and Pakistan. Sutlej sustains India’s North and North-western states. Mekon sustains Vietnam, Irrawadi sustains Myanmar, Karnali and Seti sustain Nepal, and so on. Since 1950, China has built over 22,000 dams over 15 meters tall, roughly half of world’s current total. Majority are in Tibet. To build dams alone, China has forcibly displaced 22.9 million people. The spree continues. ‘Three Gorges dam’ is well-known, but several others are less known. The plan of diverting Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra in India)’s water to China’s arid north is mind-boggling, and if implemented, will completely destroy the largest canyon in the world, home to roughly 60% of Tibet’s bio-diversity. Salween is the only free-flowing river so far, and may not remain so for long. With these dams, China has the capability of controlling flow of water to the lower-riparian states such as India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Vietnam, Nepal, Cambodia and Thailand. All of these countries are dependent on seasonal rainfall, like monsoon in India. During the dry seasons, curtailed flow of water in these rivers will drive the population in these countries to riot, and these countries will face nothing less than civil war. With China, due to their abysmal record of human rights, and well-established expansionist agenda, this is a real threat, and the knowledgeable population in the lower riparian states shudder to think of the catastrophe, if China indeed resorts to such tactics.
China has no water-sharing treaties with any of the lower-riparian states. In fact, China does not even recognize a need for such treaty, and is not a signatory to the relevant UN declarations and clauses pertaining to sharing of water resources. This places China’s dam-building spree completely outside of any international legal regime.
In 2000, there were flash-floods in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. In the first instance, Indian government officials were completely at a loss to explain why so much excess water flowed through Brahmaputra. The loss of human beings, livestock and infrastructure was very disturbing. In the second instance, Sutlej was flooded, over hundred people died in Himachal Pradesh, there was significant loss of livestock and a strategic road was completely washed away. ISRO satellite pictures remain classified till date, Indian government officials are silent. There were clear suspicion that an artificial lake was formed just before this flood in Tibet, and it was breached, causing such widespread destruction. China has never allowed Indian experts to visit the area in question in Tibet. ‘Environmental terrorism’ is what it should be called.
All the lower-riparian states need to join hands to fight China’s water terrorism. Over a quarter of human population is at the mercy of China’s actions in Tibet. Tibet must be made free from Chinese imperialism with support from free world. The free world then must support the Tibetans in retaining the hard earned freedom. China can not be allowed to brutalize Tibetans (1.2 million Tibetans have been killed since 1950 and over 6,000 monasteries have been razed to the ground). Similarly, China can not be allowed to terrorize Asia over the most basic of natural resources – water. This is not Tibet’s fight alone.