Brahma Chellaney

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Brahma Chellaney
New Delhi, India
ResidenceNew Delhi, India
OccupationPublic intellectual, strategic thinker, author, columnist
Notable work
Water, Peace, and War and Water: Asia's New Battleground

Brahma Chellaney is a strategic thinker, author, public intellectual and analyst of international geostrategic trends. He is respected for his depth of scholarship and for his independent mind.[1] He won the 2012 Bernard Schwartz Book Award by the New York-based Asia Society for his pioneering work, Water: Asia's New Battleground, published by Georgetown University Press.[2] He received the $20,000 prize at a special event in New York on 23 January 2013.[3] He has since published a new book on the global geopolitics of natural resources Water, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis, brought out by Rowman & Littlefield, one of the leading US-based publishers.[4]

Professor Chellaney is a Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, an independent think-tank; a Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow with the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin; a nonresident affiliate with the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization at King's College London; and a member of the Board of Governors of the National Book Trust of India. He has been a Fellow at the Norwegian Nobel Institute, which through the Nobel Committee awards the Nobel Peace Prize annually, as well as a Fellow of the Robert Bosch Stiftung. He is a Bernard Schwartz awardee. He was formerly a member of the Policy Advisory Group headed by the External Affairs Minister of India.

Professor Chellaney is widely regarded as one of India's leading strategic thinkers and analysts, and is also a well-known newspaper and television commentator on international affairs.[5] Stanley Weiss in the International Herald Tribune, for example, called him "one of India's top strategic thinkers,"[6] while The Guardian has described him as "a respected international affairs analyst and author."[7] He is very well known as a commentator on regional and international issues in the field of strategic affairs, including larger Asian strategic issues and non-traditional subjects like water security, energy security and climate security, and has thus been described as a "famous strategic pundit and TV talking head".[8]

He is one of the authors of India's nuclear doctrine and its first strategic defence review. Those contributions came when Professor Chellaney was an adviser to India's National Security Council until January 2000, serving as convener of the External Security Group of the National Security Advisory Board, as well as member of the Board's Nuclear Doctrine Group.[9]

Education and career[edit]

Professor Chellaney holds a PhD in international arms control. After passing the Senior Cambridge examination at Mount St. Mary's School, India, he did a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from Hindu College, University of Delhi and a Master of Arts from the Delhi School of Economics. A specialist on international security and arms control issues, Professor Chellaney has held appointments at the Harvard University, the Brookings Institution, the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies and the Australian National University. He has been a Fellow of the Nobel Institute, the Oslo-based institution that awards the Nobel Peace Prize. His specialisations include resource security, great-power relationships, international terrorism, and nuclear issues.

He is also a television commentator and a columnist, including for Project Syndicate, which internationally syndicates commentaries.[10] He writes opinion articles for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Nikkei Asian Review, The Japan Times, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, La Vanguardia, and Mint. In 1985, he won the Overseas Press Club of America's Citation for Excellence.

Professor Chellaney was a potential contender for the post of India's National Security Advisor, had an opposition-led coalition come to power in India's nationwide elections held during April–May 2009. He remains active, however, in Track I and Track II dialogues.


Professor Chellaney is the author of nine books, with the latest being Water, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis (Rowman & Littlefield).[11] This authoritative study considers the profound impact of the growing global water crunch on international peace and security as well as possible ways to mitigate the crisis. His earlier award-winning book Water: Asia's New Battleground (Georgetown University Press, Washington, DC) focuses on the essential steps to avert water wars in Asia.[12] The battles of yesterday were fought over land. Those of today are over energy. But the battles of tomorrow, as Professor Chellaney highlights in his studies, may be over water.

He is also the author of the international best-seller, Asian Juggernaut: The Rise of China, India and Japan (HarperCollins, New York). In 2010, HarperCollins released a paperback edition of Asian Juggernaut.[13] The book focuses on how a fast-rising Asia has become the defining fulcrum of global geopolitical change, with Asian policies and challenges now shaping the international security and economic environments. Asia's significance in international relations is beginning to rival that of Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. With the world's fastest-growing markets, fastest-rising military expenditures and most serious hot spots, Asia holds the key to the future global order. The book examines the ascent of Asia by focusing on its three main powers—China, India and Japan. How the China-Japan, China-India and Japan-India equations evolve will have a crucial bearing on Asian and global security. Asian Juggernaut has been translated into several languages.

He is also the author of Controlling the Taps, published in 2012 by CLSA, a wholly owned subsidiary of LCL S.A.; and of From Arms Racing to "Dam Racing" in Asia, brought out in mid-2012 by the Transatlantic Academy in Washington, DC.[14] Brazil's Editora Acatu released in late 2012 his Asian security book in Portuguese, A ascensão da Ásia e seu impacto global, which examines the impact of Asia's rise on international relations.[15]

Among his other publications is On the Frontline of Climate Change: International Security Implications (KAF, 2007), with Heela Najibullah. This is a study of the larger strategic ramifications of global warming. Given that climate change can only be slowed but not stopped, the book contends that the subject should be elevated to a national-security issue. It argues that Asia is likely to bear the brunt of climate change, making it imperative for Asian states to build greater institutional and organizational capacity.[16] His first book, Nuclear Proliferation: The United States-India Conflict, was published in 1993.[17]

Professor Chellaney has published research papers in International Security, Orbis, Survival, Washington Quarterly, Security Studies and Terrorism.


Asian Geopolitics[edit]

Professor Chellaney has authored the widely acclaimed book, Asian Juggernaut: The Rise of China, India and Japan.[18] The book established him as one of the leading international scholars on Asian strategic issues. The book highlights that Asia has not only the world's fastest-growing economies, but also the world's fastest-rising military expenditures, most dangerous hot spots, and fiercest resource competition.

Professor Chellaney's research focuses on great-power relationships in the world and resource security challenges. In the Asian theatre, he has focused on the significance of the ongoing power shifts for international security and Asian peace and stability. Asia is in flux, and the power equations between its major players are still evolving. Yet Asia faces complex security, developmental, and resource-related challenges in an era of sharper interstate competition.

His work highlights how Asia is coming together economically but getting more divided politically. Although Europe has built institutions to underpin peace, Asia has yet to begin such a process in earnest.

Water and International Security[edit]

As part of his research on the geopolitics of natural resources, Professor Chellaney has done pioneering work on the link between growing water stress in the world and long-term peace and security, with his latest book being Water, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis. The book, written in a direct, non-technical, and engaging style, draws on a wide range of research from scientific and policy fields to bring out the different global linkages between water and peace and to offer a holistic picture and integrated solutions to the challenges.[19] One sobering fact highlighted by the book is that the retail price of bottled water is already higher than the international spot price of crude oil, although, unlike oil, water has no known substitute.

He won the 2012 Bernard Schwartz Award for his earlier book, Water: Asia’s New Battleground.[20] Also see his 2012 study, published by the Washington, DC-based Transatlantic Academy, From Arms Racing to "Dam Racing" in Asia.[21] In a number of other papers and articles, he has focused attention on the great resource dilemma the world confronts at a time of fast-growing demand for water, hydrocarbons, minerals, and other natural resources. According to his work, the resource crunch has given rise to a new Great Game centred on rival plans to secure a larger share of strategic resources. And the way oil shaped international geopolitics in the twentieth century, the competition over water resources is set to shape many interstate relationships in this century. In his words, "As the most pressing resource, water holds the strategic key to peace, public health, and prosperity."[22]

He has underlined the risks to peace by pointing out that upstream dams, barrages, canals, and irrigation systems can help fashion water as a political weapon – a weapon that can be wielded overtly in a war or subtly in peacetime to signal dissatisfaction with a co-riparian state. Even denial of hydrological data in the critically important monsoon season – when flooding is common – can amount to the use of water as a political tool.[23] The exercise of such leverage, according to him, can prompt a downstream state to build up its military capabilities to help counterbalance the riparian disadvantage.

In his work, he has brought out Tibet's unique triple role – as the world's largest freshwater repository, as Asia's main freshwater supplier (almost all the major Asian rivers originate there), and as Asia's rainmaker (Tibet acts as an elevated heat pump in the summer and helps bring on the annual monsoon rains). As he has put it, "Tibet's vast glaciers and high altitude have endowed it with the world's greatest river systems. Its rivers are a lifeline to the world's two most-populous states – China and India – as well as to Bangladesh, Burma, Bhutan, Nepal, Cambodia, Pakistan, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. These countries make up 47 percent of the global population."[24]

In his publications, Professor Chellaney contends that Asia is at the center of the global water challenges at a time when water seems poised to outstrip oil as the world's scarcest vital resource. Asia's centrality is underlined by a simple fact: it has less freshwater per person than any other continent. Indeed, its per capita freshwater availability is less than half the global average. Yet, with the world's fastest-rising military expenditures, most-dangerous hot spots, and fiercest resource competition, Asia, according to him, appears as the most likely flash point for water wars — a concern underscored by the attempts of some countries to exploit their riparian position or dominance. Riparian dominance impervious to international legal principles, he has warned, can create a situation where water allocations to co-riparian states become a function of political fiat.

He has pointed out that there are water treaties between riparian neighbours in South and Southeast Asia but not between China and its neighbours, because Beijing refuses to enter into water-sharing arrangements with any co-riparian state. Yet, through its control of the Tibetan Plateau, China controls the ecological viability of several major river systems tied to southern and southeastern Asia. In fact, it is pursuing megadam projects on the plateau (including on the Mekong, Brahmaputra, Arun, Salween and other international rivers) and planning to launch massive inter-basin and inter-river water transfer schemes to take Tibetan waters northward in the third phase of its ongoing South-North Water Diversion Project.

He has argued that the way to forestall or manage water disputes in Asia is to build cooperative basin institutions involving all riparian neighbours. Such institutional arrangements must center on transparency, information sharing, pollution control, and a pledge not to redirect the natural flow of transboundary rivers or undertake projects that would diminish cross-border water flows.

Analysis of US-India Nuclear Deal[edit]

Professor Chellaney stood out for expressing doubts about the long-term benefits of the US-India nuclear deal, which was unveiled in July 2005 and ratified by the US Congress in October 2008. "The deal's very rationale is fundamentally flawed because generating electricity from imported reactors makes little economic or strategic sense. Such imports will lead to energy insecurity and exorbitant costs," he argued in the International Herald Tribune.[25] "India should not replicate in the energy sector the major mistake it has pursued on armaments. Now the world's largest arms importer, India spends billions of dollars a year on weapons imports, some of questionable value, while it neglects to build its own armament-production base. India should not think of compounding that blunder by spending billions more to import overly expensive reactors when it can more profitably invest in the development of its own energy sources."

Professor Chellaney criticised the Bush administration both for reneging on the accord's central plank as defined by the original agreement-in-principle—that India would "assume the same responsibilities and practices and acquire the same benefits and advantages as other leading countries with advanced nuclear technology"—and for progressively adding new conditions to make the deal more palatable to the nonproliferation constituency at home. "America's goalpost-shifting approach shows it will accept India at most as a second-class nuclear power," he contended.[26]

His thesis was that the deal had been oversold by politicians both in New Delhi and in Washington. "Supporters in India have argued it will cement U.S.-India ties and facilitate technology transfers in fields beyond commercial nuclear power. Backers in the U.S. have argued the deal will make it easier for Washington to call on India as a counterweight to China's influence, and expand commercial opportunities for Americans. But none of these claims is entirely realistic," he wrote in The Wall Street Journal.[27] "In short, the hype over the nuclear deal needs to be tempered by certain realities. First among these is that a durable U.S.-India partnership cannot be built on strategic opportunism, but rather must grow from shared national interests. In coming years, India will increasingly be aligned with the West economically. But strategically it can avail itself of multiple options, even as it moves from nonalignment to a contemporary, globalized strategic framework. In keeping with its long-standing preference for policy independence, India is likely to become multialigned, while tilting more toward the U.S."

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, several countries have frozen or scrapped plans to build new nuclear power plants, with Germany and Switzerland even deciding to gradually phase out all their nuclear plants. In India, grassroots opposition has grown to the building of new nuclear power plants. Against this background, it is doubtful that the US-India nuclear deal's much-touted energy benefits will materialise.

Coverage of Operation Bluestar[edit]

Professor Chellaney began his career as a journalist when he was in his early 20s, working as the South Asia correspondent of the leading international wire service, Associated Press. Although he worked as a journalist only for a couple of years, he covered, as AP correspondent, the June 1984 Indian security operation, known as Operation Blue Star, to flush out heavily armed Sikh militants holed up in the sprawling complex of the Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh shrine. His exclusive coverage won him a prestigious journalism award—a Citation for Excellence in 1985 by the Overseas Press Club, New York. Mr. Chellaney later finished his PhD and entered academia.

Before the storming of Golden Temple by Indian Army starting on 3 June 1984, a media blackout was enforced.[28][29][30] Brahma Chellaney of the Associated Press was the only foreign reporter who managed to stay on in Amritsar.[31]

His first dispatch, front-paged by The New York Times, The Times of London and The Guardian, reported a death toll about twice of what authorities had admitted. According to the dispatch, about 780 militants and civilians and 400 troops had perished in fierce gunbattles. The high casualty rates among security forces were attributed to "the presence of such sophisticated weapons as medium machine guns and rockets in the terrorists' arsenal."[32] Mr. Chellaney also reported that "several" suspected Sikh militants had been shot with their hands tied.[33] The dispatch, after its first paragraph reference to "several" such deaths, elaborated that "eight to 10" men had been shot in that fashion.[33][34] The number of casualties reported by Mr. Chellaney were far more than government reports,[35] and embarrassed the Indian government, which disputed his facts.[36][37] The Associated Press stood by the reports and figures, the accuracy of which was also "supported by Indian and other press accounts" according to Associated Press; and reports in The Times and The New York Times.[38]

The government cited Mr. Chellaney's dispatches published in The New York Times, The Times of London and The Guardian to accuse him and the Associated Press of breaking the press-censorship order that had been promulgated in the state of Punjab.[39] There were three reasons why no formal charges were ever filed. First, the government threat caused outrage in the journalism world[40] and civil liberties organisations.[41] The New York Times took the lead, carrying several editorials severely criticising Indian authorities. In one editorial, titled "Truth on Trial—in India," it said Mr. Chellaney "provoked displeasure by doing his job too well."[42] The Associated Press Managing Editors Association, comprising editors of major US newspapers, adopted a resolution calling on the Indian government to "cease all proceedings, under way and contemplated," pointing out that '"responsible Indian officials have corroborated Mr. Chellaney's news dispatches from Amritsar."[43] Other media organisations also protested.[44][45][46]

Second, the Associated Press and Mr. Chellaney took the case to the Supreme Court of India, which set up a full constitutional bench to hear the matter. The government act was also challenged as "unconstitutional" by Maharaja of Patiala, Amrinder Singh, in a separate application filed in the Supreme Court.[41] Third, Mr. Chellaney's reporting had been corroborated by several other Indian publications and by the army general who commanded Operation Blue Star, Krishnaswamy Sundarji. Sundarji, in an interview to the now-defunct Illustrated Weekly of India, confirmed Mr. Chellaney's death toll of nearly 1,200 in that operation. As a top editor of the Indian Express later wrote, investigations by the newspaper "found that what Chellaney had written was absolutely correct."[47]

The pending preliminary investigations were formally dropped in September 1985.[48][49] "Mr. Chellaney's only offenses were enterprise and accuracy," The New York Times editorialised, hailing the decision.[50] Years later, he is remembered as the correspondent who bravely defied censorship to expose the killings.[51]


  1. ^ Stanley A. Weiss (21 February 2009), Whom Do Sanctions Hurt?, International Herald Tribune; "Water: Asia's New Battleground |". Georgetown University Press.; "Asian Juggernaut;". HarperCollins Publishers.
  2. ^ "Brahma Chellaney's Water: Asia's New Battleground wins the 2012 Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Book Award". Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  3. ^ "Bernard Schwartz Book Award". Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  4. ^ "Water, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis;". Rowman& Littlefield. 16 April 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  5. ^ "Brahma Chellaney |". HarperCollins Publishers. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  6. ^ Stanley A. Weiss (21 February 2009), Whom Do Sanctions Hurt?, International Herald Tribune
  7. ^ Jason Burke (7 April 2011), Indian Activist Anna Hazare Refuses to End Hunger Strike, The Guardian
  8. ^ Shekhar Gupta (3 June 2014), First Person, Second Draft: Once upon a bloody time, Indian Express
  9. ^ "Center for Policy Research |". Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  10. ^ Columnist Brahma Chellaney. "Project Syndicate".
  11. ^ "Water, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis;". Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4422-2139-0.
  12. ^ "Water: Asia's New Battleground;". Georgetown University Press, Washington, DC. ISBN 1589017714.
  13. ^ "Asian Juggernaut |". Harper Business, New York. Retrieved 10 July 2010.
  14. ^ "From Arms Racing to "Dam Racing" in Asia;". German Marshall Fund, Washington, DC. 2 May 2012.
  15. ^ "A ascensão da Ásia e seu impacto global;". Editora Acatu. November 2012. ISBN 978-85-61301-08-8. Archived from the original on 22 April 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  16. ^ "Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V. |". Archived from the original on 4 August 2012. Retrieved 28 January 2009.
  17. ^ "Nuclear Proliferation: The United States-India Conflict;". Stosius Inc/Advent Books Division, New York. June 2012. ISBN 978-0863113277.
  18. ^ "Asian Juggernaut |". Harper Business, New York. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
  19. ^ "Water, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis;". Rowman& Littlefield. 16 April 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  20. ^ "Water: Asia's New Battleground |". Georgetown University Press. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  21. ^ "From Arms Racing to "Dam Racing" in Asia;". The Transatlantic Academy. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  22. ^ Brahma Chellaney (8 February 2008), Averting Asian Water Wars, The Asia-Pacific Journal
  23. ^ Brahma Chellaney (3 August 2009), The Sino-Indian Water Divide, Project Syndicate
  24. ^ Brahma Chellaney (26 June 2007), THE NEXT STRUGGLE: Averting water wars in Asia, International Herald Tribune
  25. ^ Brahma Chellaney (27 December 2005), U.S. deal is a bad choice for power generation, International Herald Tribune
  26. ^ Brahma Chellaney (13 February 2006), Vaunted U.S.-India nuclear deal begins to fall apart: Shifting the goalposts, International Herald Tribune
  27. ^ Brahma Chellaney (10 September 2008), Nuclear Distraction, Wall Street Journal
  28. ^ Hamlyn, Michael (6 June 1984). "Journalists removed from Amritsar: Army prepares to enter Sikh shrine". The Times. p. 36.
  29. ^ Tully, Mark (1985). Amritsar: Mrs Gandhi's Last Battle. Jonathan Cape.
  30. ^ "Gun battle rages in Sikh holy shrine". The Times. 5 June 1984. p. 1.
  31. ^ Hamlyn, Michael (12 June 1984). "Amritsar witness puts death toll at 1000". The Times. p. 7.
  32. ^ Eric Silver (7 June 1984), Golden Temple Sikhs Surrender, The Guardian
  33. ^ a b Chellaney, Brahma (14 June 1984). "Sikhs in Amritsar 'tied up and shot'". Brahma Chellaney, for the Associated Press, was the only foreign correspondent in Amritsar during the storming of the temple. The Times. p. 1.
  34. ^ Chellaney, Brahma (14 June 1984). "Sikh rebels were shot 'at point-blank range'". Brahma Chellaney, for the Associated Press, was the only foreign correspondent in Amritsar during the storming of the temple. The Times. p. 3.
  35. ^ "Toll in assault on Sikh Temple termed vastly underestimated". Miami Herald. 11 June 1984.
  36. ^ "Indian Police Question Reporter on Amritsar". The Associated Press. The New York Times. 24 November 1984. Retrieved 14 January 2009.
  37. ^ "India is set to drop prosecution of AP reporter in Punjab Case". The Associated Press. The New York Times, Late City Final Edition. 14 September 1985. p. 5. Retrieved 14 January 2009.
  38. ^ Stevens (30 October 1984). "India is said to drop prosecution of A. P. reporter in Punjab case =". The New York Times. p. 5. Mr. Chellaney reported a death toll of 1,200 at a time when the Indian Government said the figure was 576. He also reported that 8 to 10 Sikhs had been tied up and shot by soldiers. The Government called his dispatches false and inflammatory. The A. P. defended the accuracy of his reports, which were supported by Indian and other press accounts.
  39. ^ New York Times (19 September 1985), "On Shaky Ground, Case Closed in India (editorial)", The New York Times
  40. ^ Stevens, William K. (30 October 1984). "Charges Against a Reporter in Punjab Stir Protest". The New York Times. pp. A4. An effort to prosecute an Associated Press reporter here has set off protests by representatives of western news organizations, some of whom see the case as a gross violation of the principle of freedom of press, a principle officially subscribed by the Indian Government.
  41. ^ a b Hamlyn, Michael (31 October 1984). "Terror Act journalist gets hearing". The Times. p. 5.
  42. ^ New York Times (23 October 1984), "Truth on Trial—in India (editorial)", The New York Times
  43. ^ "Editors Group Bids India Drop Reporter Case", The New York Times, 1 December 1984
  44. ^ "Journalists Group Protests Treatment of Indian Reporter". The New York Times. 4 May 1985. BRUSSELS, May 3 (A P) – The International Federation of Journalists cabled Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India today to protest what it called the continued harassment of a reporter for The Associated Press, Brahma Chellaney, and to ask for the free exercise of journalism in India. The Brussels-based organization, which has a membership of 105,000 journalists, also protested 'the refusal by Indian authorities to return his passport and renew his press card'.
  45. ^ "Journalists' Group Protests Treatment of Indian Reporter", The New York Times, 4 May 1985
  46. ^ "Indian Editors Say Governments Threatens Free Expression =". The New York Times. 17 February 1985. p. 4.
  47. ^ Rahul Singh (26 July 1993), Bad Star, Indian Express
  48. ^ "Case dropped". The Times. 9 September 1985.
  49. ^ William K. Stevens (30 October 1985), "India is said to drop prosecution of A.P. reporter in Punjab case", The New York Times
  50. ^ New York Times (19 September 1985), "On Shaky Ground, Case Closed in India (editorial)", The New York Times
  51. ^ "Defying censorship, the reporter who exposed the killings," The Hindu, 10 June 2013.

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