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River Disputes, Development, Imperialism: A New Analysis


Ramaswamy R. Iyer

INTERSTATE DISPUTES OVER KRISHNA WATERS: LAW, SCIENCE AND IMPERIALISM
By Radha D'Souza
Orient Longman, New Delhi, 2006, pp. xxii 573, Rs. 1150.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 1 January 2007

This book gives evidence of truly formidable scholarship in a multiplicity of areas and disciplines, an acute and sophisticated mind, and a striking originality of approach; and in terms of scope and coverage it is monumental and encyclopaedic. However, the author’s novel thesis, though powerfully argued, ultimately left this reviewer unpersuaded.   The Krishna River disputes, the stated subject of the book, is reached only on p. 95. The first 94 pages are devoted to the construction of an analytical framework for the examination of that subject. Section II (pp. 95 – 283) certainly sets forth in detail the history of the disputes over Krishna waters, the elements of the disputes, the arguments put forward by the disputing parties, the reasoning and decisions of the Krishna Waters Disputes Tribunal (KWDT) on the various issues, and so on, making this a valuable reference work for future scholars. However, what the book offers is not straightforward narration, but a continuous interpretation in terms of certain over-arching theses. Besides, after Section II the book reverts to its larger concerns, with only intermittent references to the Krishna disputes. What then is the subject of the book? This is better indicated by the sub-title of the book. One can almost say that that the sub-title and the main title should be switched.   One began reading the book with some curiosity about the word `imperialism’ in the title. What has `imperialism’ to do with inter-State river water disputes in India? As one read on, it became clear that the book was in fact primarily about imperialism; it is essentially an extended `anti-imperialism’ thesis. That is a persuasive case: the combination of World-Bank/IMF/ADB capitalist proselytization, the giant multi-national corporations’ sinister power, and American hegemonism (military-political-economic), has indeed acquired menacing proportions. However, if that was the thesis that the author wished to argue, why did she have to use the Krishna disputes as the peg on which to hang her argument? (It is indeed possible to argue that what underlies inter-State river disputes is `greed’ in Gandhi’s sense, and that on a much larger scale it is the same greed for the world’s natural resources that underlies `imperialism’ as encapsulated above; but that is not the author’s argument.)   Without entering into a detailed discussion of her thesis, two general comments seem in order. First, the very size of the canvas that the author attempts makes it difficult for ...


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