India & Malaysia, Darfur's Other Culprits
China is a major financial supporter of the Sudanese government, which is massacring its own citizens in Darfur. As a result, human rights activists are using the 2008 Beijing Olympics to draw attention to China's complicity in the ongoing slaughter, as well as to the government's brutal crackdown on protesters in Tibet.
But while the Olympic torch relay has been dogged by demonstrations, other unseemly ties between the Sudanese government and the sporting world are being overlooked. In Formula One auto racing, the Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix went off without a hitch March 23, despite the fact that the race's corporate sponsor is one of the Sudanese government's biggest backers.
Petronas, Malaysia's state-owned oil and gas company, has poured an estimated $1.5 billion into Sudan's petroleum sector, providing cash the Sudanese government can then use to finance its weapons purchases.
And in soccer, India's 10-team I-League has been holding its matches protest-free, even though the league's sponsor, the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), has also channeled about $1.5 billion to Sudan.
Petronas, ONGC, and two Beijing-based companies, China National Petroleum (CNPC) and Sinopec, form a quartet known as "the Big 4" because of their dominant position in the Sudanese oil industry. The Big 4 serve up the cash that is a crucial ingredient in the genocidal formula of Sudan's Bashir regime.
According to Human Rights Watch, oil revenue allows the Sudanese government to pay for helicopter gun ships and aerial bombardments. In some parts of Sudan, the government uses airstrips and roads built by the oil companies to transport weapons and troops.
China is the largest investor in the Sudanese oil industry, so it's appropriate that Beijing bears the lion's share of the criticism. But while China may be the worst offender, Malaysia and India are close on its heels.
The Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company is Sudan's largest oil-producing project. China National Petroleum is the No. 1 investor, with a 40% stake in the consortium, but Malaysia and India aren't far behind. Petronas holds a 30% stake, and ONGC has a 25% share.
The Malaysian and Indian companies now operate in a southern Sudanese block where, according to Human Rights Watch, the central government and allied militias have displaced thousands of civilians to make way for oil production. Petronas and ONGC are thus direct beneficiaries of the Sudanese government's ethnic cleansing campaigns.
This is not to say that the Malaysian and Indian governments are morally equivalent to China's communist leadership. After all, both Malaysia and India are democracies. While human rights monitors have documented chronic abuses in both countries, neither engages in domestic repression on the same scale that China does.
But if anything, this fact should give activists an additional reason to target Kuala Lumpur and New Delhi: Countries that already respect the basic freedoms of their citizens are more likely to respond favorably to international pressure than countries, such as China, that run roughshod over their own people's rights.
And since Petronas is wholly owned by the Malaysian government, and the President of India Inc holds a 74% stake in ONGC, both companies--unlike their Chinese counterparts--can be held accountable by voters in their respective countries.
So far, politicians in Malaysia and India have paid little more than lip service to human rights concerns in Darfur. Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi visited Darfur last April and said Islamic nations "must commit ourselves to help in any way we can."
His government has made a small contribution to the ineffectual U.N. peacekeeping force in the region, but most of Malaysia's "help" has gone to the perpetrators--not the victims--of the genocide.
For its part, India recently offered 60 camels to the Darfur peacekeeping mission. Meanwhile, both India and Malaysia have helped to prevent the U.N. Human Rights Council from criticizing Sudan's conduct.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington says it's "irresponsible and unfair" to blame Beijing for the Darfur genocide, but it is only unfair if China is held to a different standard than Sudan's other backers. That's all the more reason not to let Malaysia and India off the hook.
The story doesn't end with China, India and Malaysia. A Swedish firm, Lundin Petroleum, has partnered with Petronas and ONGC to drill new wells through a joint venture with the Sudanese state-owned oil company.
Meanwhile, the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, and Oman have all invested in Sudan's massive Merowe hydroelectricity project. A French company, Alstom, is one of the project's major contractors. Alstom is also the sponsor of this June's Open de France golf tournament, which, like the Petronas Grand Prix and the ONGC I-League, seems to have evaded human rights activists' radar.
While Beijing may be one focal point for international outrage, it would be a mistake if it were the only one. With the Darfur death toll well over 200,000--and with 2.5 million people left homeless by the conflict--there's plenty of blame to go around. (From Forbes.com, by Daniel Hemel who is a Marshall Scholar studying international relations at Oxford.)