This article examines the reasons for the stalled river resource diplomacy that exists among the South Asian region's four main co-riparian states (India–Pakistan in the west; India–Bangladesh–Nepal in the east). It maintains that the stalemate emerges from three stubborn realities characterizing these states—first, the existence among them of fundamental differences in natural river resource endowments; second, the pressure on all of their governments to give highest priority to their own country's river resource requirements; and third, their resolute adherence to diplomatic strategies that are in large part irreconcilable. It maintains, further, that the stalemate is unlikely to be overcome, barring a dramatic change in the way the region's river resources are conceptualized and managed. This means, concretely, that these states would have to abandon their current almost exclusively unilateralist inclinations in favor of bilateral or even multilateral approaches that were significantly more trans-boundary, integrated or “river basin” in focus. It warns that the continued festering of un-addressed river resource disputes between these states—between India and Pakistan, India and Nepal, and India and Bangladesh—is bound to retard rational river resource development in the region, stiffen the antagonism already apparent in their bilateral relationships and, inevitably, weigh heavily against hopes for expanded regional cooperation.

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