Monday, June 19, 2006

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

9 11 seemed to be designed to increase the power and wealth of the Pentagon and its allies, and to allow them to control strategically important areas of the world.

Has 9 11 been less than a total success?

According to a New York Times article, 18 June 2006:


The prospect that China, Russia, India, and Iran would form a quasi-military alliance that includes most of oil-rich Central Asia advanced last week at a regional security summit, heightening concerns of an emerging anti-US bloc.

Leaders of the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, embraced a Chinese-led plan during the summit to increase military cooperation and discussed a Russian proposal to create a regional ``energy club" that would exclude the United States. The SCO also indicated it would soon invite Iran, India, Pakistan, and Mongolia -- nations that have observer status in the organization -- to become full members.

That the SCO provided Iran with a diplomatic embrace at a time when the United States is trying to isolate Tehran over its nuclear program is yet another instance of how the grouping is thumbing its nose at Washington, analysts say.

``We are on the right track for expansion of relations and ties, and the SCO can play a very important role in promoting peace, tranquility and sustainable security in the region," Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said at a news conference Friday.
At the heart of this power play is a battle for influence in strategically located Central Asia and the energy-rich region around the Caspian Sea.

The area has always been seen by Beijing, Moscow, Tehran, and New Delhi as their backyard. But in the months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Washington surprised these regional powers by using the international alarm over global terrorism to establish new military bases in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Washington has also used its clout to win major energy deals in the area and to help create the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which allows Western countries to directly access the Caspian Sea's energy reserves without needing to go through Russia or Iran.

Shi Yinhong, director of the American Studies program at the People's University in Beijing, said concerns in the region also rose last year when the United States supported revolutions that toppled pro-Russian and pro-Chinese allies in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan, and replaced them with pro-Western democrats.

Madhav Nalapat, professor of geopolitics at the Manipal University in southern India, said the SCO, which began five years ago with a modest goal of managing Central Asia's ethnic tensions, has become the diplomatic shell under which the region's rising powers and disgruntled dictators are pooling their common umbrage against the geopolitical dominance of the United States.

``The SCO is well on track to becoming an organization that directly challenges the geopolitical reach of the US," he said.

Last July, as soon as Iran, India, and Pakistan were inducted into the SCO as observers, the organization also formally asked the United States to withdraw its troops from member states. Since then, Uzbekistan has asked the United States to vacate an air base it set up after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Both Russia and India have also established military bases in Tajikistan, not far from the US base in that country.

The economic endgame in all this is to dilute Washington's hold over the Caspian Sea's energy reserves, said Robert Karniol, Asia-Pacific editor for Jane's Defense Weekly. China and India, the world's fastest-growing energy consumers, want to divert Central Asia's energy resources toward their own economies, and Iran and Russia, the region's largest energy suppliers, are keen to reduce their dependence on sales to the West, Karniol said.

Over the last year, China, India, Russia, and Iran have signed energy deals valued at about $500 billion with one another and also have begun to talk of about creating a Central Asian ``energy club" that would have its own pipeline network and energy market.

India and China have raised Washington's ire with a proposal to convert the prized Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which has been designed to bring gas to Europe, into a feeder for Asia. India wants to extend the pipeline to Syria, from where oil would be loaded onto tankers and shipped to Asia through the Red Sea.

However, the seamless evolution of the SCO into a cohesive grouping is far from certain. India is increasingly deepening ties with the United States. Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Mongolia are also US allies.

SCO members also need to learn how to work together at a strategic level, analysts say. For example, Ahmadinejad was adamant in saying the world's problems existed because of governments and leaders who have turned away from the teachings of God. That may not have pleased his hosts in China, which is officially atheist


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