Hydro-hegemons can provide both positive and negative forms of leadership, the former leading to cooperative outcomes and the latter to conflict in transboundary river basins. What constrains hydro-hegemons and under what conditions do they cooperate? This paper examines China's and India's hydro-hegemonic behavior, using case studies of the Mekong and the Ganges, respectively. As a positive hydro-hegemon, China cooperates multilaterally with other Mekong riparians, while India takes a limited sovereignty view by sharing water with Bangladesh and Nepal in the Ganges. China and India behave as dominant hydro-hegemons when they engage in resource capture strategies, such as water diversion projects and unilateral dam-building activities. The regional context and domestic politics of hydro-hegemons constrain their behavior, and determine the forms of positive and negative leadership they provide. When strong multilateral mechanisms already exist in the regional context, hydro-hegemons are more likely to cooperate multilaterally. This explains why China cooperates multilaterally in the Mekong while India rejects multilateralism in the Ganges. Domestic considerations also explain why China cooperates multilaterally in the Mekong but avoids water-sharing discussions. In India's case, electoral politics account for the eventual signing of the Ganges and Mahakali treaties after decades of negotiations.

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