Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Intelligence Items: Oil, Diplomacy, Guns


China is maneuvering to admit Iran to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which includes Russia and four central Asian nations. The group will convene its fifth annual summit meeting in Shanghai tomorrow. Energy will be the main focus, with China stepping up efforts to secure stable supplies of oil and gas from member nations and Iran. The oil-rich Islamist nation, which is engaged in a nuclear standoff with the West, will attend this year's gathering as an observer, thanks to China's invitation. The United States is convinced that China and Russia are using the increasingly important SCO, which Washington initially dismissed as an ineffective letterhead organization, as an anti-American front....

China-India relations are approaching an all-time high, despite Indian defense ministry reservations about Beijing's arms trade with India's traditional adversary, Pakistan, and its efforts to acquire civilian nuclear technology from Beijing. The rapprochement between the rival Asian giants concerns the US, which had hoped to use India as a regional counterweight to Chinese military expansion....

Maoist insurgents in Nepal and India are increasing cross-border contacts. Both groups feel abandoned and betrayed by Beijing, which stopped supporting them years ago. The Maoists of Nepal, which include about 15,000 active fighters, have good reason to feel betrayed. Though their protracted armed struggle has helped reduce Indian influence in the predominantly Hindu nation, China, as Amnesty International reported this week, secretly sold weapons to Nepal's security forces before the fall of the country's corrupt, autocratic king. The extremely lucrative arms deals were arranged by middlemen close to the palace....

China's double-dealing in Nepal could call attention to Beijing's deepening ties to Nigeria, where attacks on foreign oil installations and individuals by shadowy Niger Delta militants have cut crude output by more than 20 percent. As China Confidential has reported, many analysts assert that China is making protection payments to the militants; and some suspect that China has even provided the rebels with assistance, while stepping up arms sales to the Nigerian military....

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