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More than 80000 Tamil civilians were killed during the last attacks of the Sri Lankan civil war.

One may be tempted to say that it is not the first case of impunity, not even in recent history. True: in Syria for example there are concurrent narratives of propaganda blaming alternatively the government and the rebels. But the novelty in respect of Sri Lanka is the absence of competitive perspectives. It is well known that China protects Sri Lanka; a little less divulged is the Indian protection of Sri Lanka. But the real point is that the West is actually not interested in accusing Sri Lanka. The US made very bland recommendations to Colombo, in comparison what is at stake. The impression is that the Sri Lankan government shall be charged for mishandling the behaviour of its troops. The boys went too far in certain circumstances, but we don’t have the political will to scold our naughty soldiers.

500 000 Tamil civilians were chased out,through shelling and starvation.

500 000 Tamil civilians were chased out,through shelling and starvation.

The accusation is far from this insipid criticism: the government of Sri Lanka launched a heavy military offensive against hundreds of thousands of civilians. Again, it’s better to have clear in mind that we are not speaking of isolated episodes: the plan was to bring war in the middle of Tamil inhabited areas. The operation was designed to bring havoc in every Tamil house. At the peak of the Vanni operation, almost half a million of people has been chased, starved and bombed out. It is less about the casualties and more about the intentions. The carnage of 80000 civilians is still not the most horrible part of the truth. Soldiers massively brainwashed and put under extreme psychological stress, can eventually go crazy and out of control. This is still criminal and to blame. But the Sri Lankan case is worst: the government planned to massacre the civilians. We are not discussing episodes of crossfire: we are accusing the government of Sri Lanka of heavy shelling on harmless population. Repetitively. It was a decision, it was planned.

united nations

The silence of the United Nations is a crucial accomplice in the massacres.

And the United Nations, the government of USA, UK, India, France, Norway and Japan know what happened. The UN actually published a report where it estimates at 40000 the number of civilian casualties[1]. Moreover an internal inquiry from the UN provided even more critical observations about the accomplice negligence[2].

New Delhi provided military intelligence, electronic surveillance and field support on the ground: India was informed in real time. Actually, it was New Delhi that was informing Colombo about the development of action.

Now such carnage won’t be sanctioned.

Why? Several reasons for the convenience of geopolitical equilibrium. We have some suspicions that the oil discovery in the LTTE[3] controlled area could have been a game changer, especially for India (with Vedanta and Cairn) and European countries, like the UK (again with Cairn and Vedanta, both London-listed), France (with Total); but also Malaysia, with its powerful Tamil presence, was involved through Petronas[4].

The estimated reserves of the Mannar Basin oil field  are up to a billion barrels.

The estimated reserves of the Mannar Basin oil field are up to a billion barrels.

Aside this allegation, the undisputed outcome is that Sri Lanka will walk away from a planned massacre with total impunity, because it made the right diplomatic move. Namely, it sought agreement with every power involved. With the US, Colombo justified the operation with war on terror (it was actually a civil war). With China, it sold out a port facility (to be included in the String of Pearls). With the other Sri Lanka exchanged attractive economic deals (the exploration rights have been ceded at bargaining price). In fact during the final phase of the war, the duo Kouchner-Miliband improvised a timid protest[5], but already in 2011 France was pledging support to Sri Lanka[6] (in 2012 Paris collaborated with Sri Lankan secret service in the extra-judiciary killing of an Ex-LTTE member Parithi[7] and in 2013 Total is ready to join the Mannar Basin deal[8]), while UK was deeply compromised with Colombo for arm trade (see the scandal that led to the resignation of Defence minister Liam Fox[9]) and economic interest (Cameron lobbied in favour of Cairn and Vedanta with Indian government[10]).

This episode will establish an important precedent in international jurisprudence: heavy diplomacy with all the parties, with all the regional and global powers will give you clearance on everything you do. Everything.

Mullivaikkal Massacre May 2009

Mullivaikkal Massacre May 2009


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IV eelam warIn this year, the IV Eelam War broke out. After the attempt of the Peace Talks from 2001 to 2005, both parties strove to resume hostilities. Many reasons have been added for the failure of the peace process. For the LTTE and especially its leader, Prabhakaran, the agreement was to far away from full independence. Of course that target was impossible to reach through negotiations, therefore only the military way was open for that purpose. On the other side the Sri Lankan government had promised even too much in the eyes of its more nationalistic constituency. Therefore in 2006 everybody was keen to start again the war.

Erik Solheim and Velupillai PrabhakaranPhoto nation.lk

Erik Solheim and Velupillai Prabhakaran
Photo nation.lk

The biggest loser was Norway. The Nordic country in fact dedicated a lot of efforts to find a deal. If you consider that from 2001 TGS-Nopec, a company specialized in seismic survey for oil exploration, was showing enthusiastic reports about the possibility to find petroleum reserves, you may guess that the government in Oslo had some undisclosed interests. If you add that the special envoy, Mr Erik Solheim, just on the brink of the Peace Talks ending was nominated Minister for International Development1, with specific interest in the oil sector, for the Norwegian initiative “Oil for development”,Norad2, (see Solheim’s activity in Ghana3, Sudan4, Angola5).

 But Norway is not the only country in the world searching for opportunities in the oil sector. China and India in the same period were involved in a tough race to secure contracts for natural resources

Union Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar with the President of China National Petroleum Corporation, Chen Geng in Beijing on January 13.

Union Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar with the President of China National Petroleum Corporation, Chen Geng in Beijing on January 13.

around the world. The competition was so strong, that their bidding war was driving prices up everywhere. Thus the two Asian giants decided to form an alliance. “The agreement aimed at preventing the two nations competition for oil assets pushing up prices, symbolises their increasingly assertive role in global energy politics” (source: Financial Time).6

 One of the first country to test this alliance, was precisely Sri Lanka. President Rajapaksa, soon after he received information about the possible presence of oil in the Mannar Basin, decided to get rid of Norway and offered India and China one block each 78.

We are far from saying that the Peace Talks were interrupted for the oil discovery; we are also not affirming that the IV Eelam War was oil-driven and that the India and China support of Sri Lanka was motivated purely by the natural resource deal.

We can see a series of coincidences and we argue that oil played a role in Sri Lanka, maybe only a secondary one, but not completely marginal. Norway is our first indicator; the Nordic country didn’t though it could provide more transparency on its conduct, but had clearly a vested interest in the peace process in relation to the oil reserve. China and India had additional reasons to back

Anti-lankan protest led by politician and activist Vaiko in Tamil Nadu.Photo onlanka.com

Anti-lankan protest led by politician and activist Vaiko in Tamil Nadu.
Photo onlanka.com

Colombo, but it was a clever and opportune gift from Rajapaksa to offer natural resources in exchange of their help. In particular it could have represent the convincing point for New Delhi, to intervene without hesitation. India has oil operations on its side of the Strait, and the idea of leaving oil reserve in the hands of the LTTE or China alone could have been the decisive argument to make move. The energy sector is more vital and strategic for India that any other alliance of convenience between China and Sri Lanka.

If you think that oil doesn’t play any role in conflicts around the globe, then you can ignore our thesis. On the other hand, if you assume that natural resources are too important in contemporary geopolitical scenarios, and so are always involved, maybe to different extent, you may be tempted to spend more time on this hypothesis.

 

nigeria oilIt is talking for stake in Mozambique’s Rovuma-1 gas field, is gazing 1 million barrels of crude oil in Ghana, has sent its special envoy in Sudan, has planned to boost investment in oil sector in Venezuela. Who is it? A little help: it is an Asian country with more than 1 billion people. And no, it is not China.

Surprise?

India’s growth is probably less spectacular and iconic than China’s, yet the magnitude is similar. And so it is its thirst for natural resources. China is scary, instead India has the reassuring smile of a Santa Klaus Mohamon Singh, it’s the biggest democracy, no Bollywood villain can seriously be taken as a menace.

India's Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh.Photo Reuters

India’s Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh.
Photo Reuters

India has a friendly face. The worst it can happen with India is that they will start to dance and to sing in falsetto. Yet, New Delhi needs natural resources, desperately. In particular, oil. Loads of oil. India in 2011 consumed a third of the oil of China, but China produced also a third1. China imports almost half of its need, India almost all2. And the future could be even more unbalanced for New Delhi. It is fair to say that India is looking as ravenously as China for new oil sources.

As we mentioned in the introduction India was in talks over the stake in Mozambique’s Rovuma-1 gas field3, with Ghana about equity participation and industrial collaboration4 and also for a contract of more than 1 million barrels5, has sent a special envoy in Sudan6 with the clear mandate of lobbying for India in the competition with China over the Sudanese oil; finally, it is investing in Venezuela more than $ 2 billions7.

Union Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar with the President of China National Petroleum Corporation, Chen Geng in Beijing on January 13.

Union Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar with the President of China National Petroleum Corporation, Chen Geng in Beijing on January 13.

This competition with China is not new. In 2006 they signed an agreement to stop such a bidding war that was driving up prices worldwide8. In 2012 in a very unnoticed press release, they “agreed to “work together to maintain peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region”. The “consensus” was reached during the recent visit of the Chinese defence minister General Liang Guanglie to India, the first such visit since 1976.”9 Few months earlier their race for the assets in the Western Hemisphere attracted some attention by the analyst10.

India and China will maintain internal stability only with massive growth, which in turns will be possible only through a constant, reliable access to natural resources. The human cost for this race will be enormous. In India the group Vedanta launched a para-military campaing with the support of the New Delhi (“operation Green Hunt”) to evict the Adivasi11 people from the mining site.

India is looking everywhere for new possibilities. So it was very welcomed news when they discovered fields at home in Gujarat12, the Andhra Pradesh13 and the Cauvery Basin14. Since 1981 presence of oil on the Indian side of the Basin were confirmed15.

Cairn India was awarded the contract for oil exploration in block No.2 of the Mannar Basin and has signed a petroleum resources agreement with the government of Sri Lanka.

Cairn India was awarded the contract for oil exploration in block No.2 of the Mannar Basin and has signed a petroleum resources agreement with the government of Sri Lanka.

So it was only a matter of time before they found oil on the Sri Lankan one. Indeed. In 2011 Cairn launched a press release where they announced the oil discovery16.

If you consider that the Sri Lankan government in 2006 assigned one block each to China and India for further exploration, then you’ll have a more complete framework of the Chinese and Indian interests in Sri Lanka17.

When it comes to natural resources and their appropriation in countries with conflict issues and violations of human rights, you may easily accuse the role of China, as it is the case in Sudan. Well, we suggest that India, with a much lower profile, has very similar interests and very similar doing. China didn’t export wars, as the US did. We would like to broad the debate about conflict and natural resources also to India.

Stay tuned.

Sri Lanka:Oil and LTTE presence

Map of Sri Lanka.
In Blue the areas interested by oil exploration.
In Black areas previously under the control of LTTE.

11The Adivasi are the Indian aborigenes, Estimated in 80 millions.