The region of South Asia, a center of global political and economic trends, hosts about 25 percent of world population. Even though 40 percent of world’s poor live in this region, two South Asian countries, India and Pakistan have attained the status of nuclear powers. Both India and Pakistan spend 2.42 percent and 3.57 percent of their GDP on military expenditures, respectively. This percentage of military expenditure seems excessive considering that poverty in India is 21.2 percent of population, whereas in Pakistan it has reached 29.5 percent of population, according to statistics provided by the World Bank. However, the most significant challenge is the increasing political tensions especially growing water stress. Home to numerous major river systems South Asia has 8.3 percent share of world’s fresh water along with less than 5 percent of world annual renewable water resources. Scarcity of water is reaching dangerous levels in every country of South Asia for example, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. India is predicted to become water stressed by 2025 and water scarce by 2050, according to a report published by the Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses in 2010. Pakistan is approaching the status of water stressed state and is near to physical scarcity of water.It is no surprise that water scarcity is on critical levels in South Asia, a region where withdrawal of groundwater is about half of world annual groundwater withdrawal. Only India, Pakistan and Bangladesh draw 380kms to 400kms ground water per year. Such degeneration of water resources is troubling for countries where economy is primarily dependent on agricultural. Already half a billion population of the region lacks access to electricity; as hydroelectric mode of production is dominant, only 1/3 of population is connected to piped water supply. With 1.5 percent growth rate the population of South Asia is known to be 2 billion by 2050. Since Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan share twenty major rivers, the cooperation between riparian states is inadequate to manage emerging water crisis. India, having a central geographical and politically influential position, can play a vital role in extend the collaborative ties in the region. However, India has a number of trans-boundary river sharing predicaments to deal with its neighbors. India has a particularly contentious river sharing matters with Bangladesh. Below there is an overview of trans-boundary river agreements and issues between India and its neighbors namely Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.Bangladesh and India Bangladesh, being a lower riparian state, has a weak bargaining position in trans-boundary river agreements. Out of the 300 rivers that flow through Bangladesh 54 are shared with India and 3 with Myanmar. 10 more trans-boundary rivers have been identified by Joint Rivers Commission of Bangladesh and India which need bilateral management. Three major rivers which have been recognized are Ganges, Teesta and Brahmaputra entering from Indian states of West Bengal and Assam respectively.Albeit that there exists only one bilateral water agreement between India and Bangladesh, the Ganges Water Treaty of 1996. The origins of this treaty go back to 1950’s when India planned to build a barrage on Ganges surfaced. After the creation of Joint Rivers Commission in 1972 negotiations carried on until the signing of Ganges Water Treaty in 1996. This treaty deals with water dispute that rose after the construction of Farraka Barrage on Ganges. Regulated by Joint Rivers Commission, this treaty addresses water sharing and management especially during dry season.Nonetheless, the construction of Farraka Barrage has proven to be adversely affecting agriculture in Bangladesh. The Ganges irrigates rice paddies on both sides of borders, as they are very sensitive to the level of salinity in water, owing to the change in water level the salinity increases on the other side of border damaging the crops. The diversion of the Ganges has negative impact on Bangladeshi environment, it has been noted that there is a significant decrease in Sundarban mangrove forests resulting in increased tiger attacks on fishermen. Economy is suffering due to downsizing in timber production. Frequent flooding is also regarded as aftereffect of deforestation. In 2007 floods in Ganges- Brahmaputra affected 13 million people in Bangladesh.Another eminently substantial bilateral water agreement between India and Bangladesh is Teesta Water Agreement. Agreement on the sharing of the Teesta River is important for Bangladesh because the Teesta River basin is responsible for livelihood of 21 million people. Both countries agreed on 39 percent and 36 percent share of river water, according to an ad-hoc agreement in 1983, but unfortunately the deal fell through in 2011. The chief minister of West Bengal Mamta Banerji refused to assent to the treaty, citing reservations regarding harmful strains. It was a big let-down for both countries as this treaty was supported by Sheikh Hasina’s pro-Indian government. Hence the agreement on the Teesta River has become subject to domestic political contention.Furthermore, Indian proposals to augment flow of Ganges River by diverting water from Brahmaputra through a gravity canal, has caused an outcry in Bangladesh. Bangladesh, having 94 percent of water supply originating from outside its borders (54 rivers out of 56 from India flow through Bangladesh), is extremely vulnerable to upstream decisions. In order to encounter environmental degradation and water challenges, long term and stable bilateral cooperation between India and Bangladesh is crucial.Nepal and IndiaIndia and Nepal share three major rivers; the Mahakali River, the Koshi River and the Gandak River. Although there are agreements on sharing of all three rivers, the level of cooperation between two countries is minimal.Nepal, with 27 percent population deprived of proper sanitation and full time electricity, is a small under-developed country. In order to enhance economic advancement a sophisticated energy production sector is a must, which can be achieved with comparative ease through hydropower projects.Meanwhile, both India and Nepal accuse each other of mismanaging and exploitation water resources. Exchange of data and information is known to be modest. In 2008 India accused neighboring authorities for neglecting to warn about floods in the Koshi River , resulting in loss of 250 lives, destruction of 300,000 homes, 800,000 acres of cropland and displaced 3 million people. Negotiations on water rights on the Koshi River are particularly contentious as the river straddles the state of Bihar and irrigates many of its agricultural fields.Climate change is another factor rendering socio-economic growth a difficulty. Farmers are especially facing challenges of abnormal seasonality, increase in temperature and longer intervals between rainfalls. Lack of trust on both sides of river frustrates any effort to reach an agreement, which is imperative to mitigate side-effects of climate change and to take measures to adapt to it.Pakistan and IndiaPakistan and India have a historic agreement on trans-boundary rivers, the Indus Water Treaty of 1960. This treaty has survived three wars and countless occasions of high political and military tension between the two states. This treaty accords India limited rights for consumptive use and full rights for non-consumptive use.In 2005, both countries resort to international arbitration on construction of Baglihar dam on the River Chenab, a major tributary of The Indus River. ICA (International Court of Arbitration) allowed Indian consumption citing that dam does not permanently alter the course of the river, it only delays it as water is used to run turbines.But Indian plans to divert water from the Neelum River which is a tributary of the Jhelum River to nearby Wular lake through a 21 km long tunnel. Wular lake in Indian held Kashmir is, or more aptly was one of Asia’s largest freshwater lakes, now it is merely 87km long collection of mud.Cooperation between India and Pakistan is victim of dismal bilateral relations. During recent episode of hostility between the two states, Indus Water Treaty was targeted by India, raising serious concerns in Pakistan. Neglect to address problems of climate and water because of political uncertainty and mistrust is evidently affecting India- Pakistan relations.ConclusionAn overview of bilateral cooperation in South Asia reflect a number of similar themes; mistrust, suspicion, reluctance to engage in dialogue, lack of information exchange, and dominance of political rhetoric. There is an immediate need of a regional institution dedicated to resolving water issues, exchange of information on water flows and climatic alterations, as well as generating and presenting initiatives to tackle challenges faced by all the states. Such institute can assist in overcoming misgivings and protecting reservations towards joint ventures on shared rivers. Extensive and lasting collaboration on non-traditional issues will help refine political interrelationship in the region. Future challenges of climate change are universal in nature and the solution lies in multilateral partnership.This writer is a student of MPhil international relations. She is currently working as a research associate at Provincial Assembly of Sindh.