Tuesday, February 22, 2011

BP Gets Hooks into India

Just watched a stomach-turning bit of coverage on CNBC-18 of the RIL-BP $7.2 billion deal announced in London this morning. Bob Dudley CEO of BP and Mukesh Ambani of Reliance were video-conferencing with selected reporters to explain the deal they signed at 10 Downing Street in the presence of the British Prime Minister.

It was stomach turning because the Indian CNBC-18 anchors did not ask a single pertinent question about the deal, which should sound loud alarm bells about the future of democracy in India.

BP is one of the most thuggish companies in corporate history.

It used to be the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company back in the post-1909 days after oil was discovered in the "Neutral Zone" in Iran (then called Persia). The country had two other "Zones," one controlled by Britain, the other by Russia. After BP took control of the Neutral Zone, Britain had unquestioned control  of the country.

The Neutral Zone was policed by the Cossack Brigade, and BP chose one of its enterprising soldiers, Reza Khan, to become king. When he showed too much independence during World War II, the British (the government and BP have always been indistinguishable), wheeled him out. He was replaced by his son, Mohammed Reza.

In the aftermath of the war, the Majlis established by the deposed Reza Khan came alive and elected nationalist Mohammed Mossadegh as Prime Minister.Mossadegh tried to renegotiate the sweetheart deal BP had got for itself from Reza Khan: at the time, Tehran was getting less money for its oil from BP than the amount the company was paying the British government in taxes on the same oil. He got nowhere, and resorted to nationalizing the company,which by then had become British Petroleum.

The British, with the CIA in tow, then conducted a coup and Mossadegh spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Iranian democracy was destroyed, and the Shah set about running the country with the help of his brutal secret police, SAVAK. When the Shah got too cosy with OPEC in the 1970s he was turfed out too, and the Ayatollah wheeled in. To control the Ayatollah, Saddam Hussein in neighbouring Iraq, a CIA agent from way back, started a war with Iran. We can expect the same kind of treatment once BP has its hooks into India.

The company has the worst environmental and safety records in the industry. Its most recent achievement, the blow-out of the rig in the Gulf of Mexico that became America's worst oil spill ever, has confirmed that place in the record books.

None of this was even hinted at in the CNBC exchanges. Instead, there was talk of RIL "benefiting" from BP offshore "expertise."        

The real danger to India, however, is not environmental. BP will be a manipulative presence in New Delhi. Reliance is already a big manipulater, and the deal gives BP (British government) access to all its kept politicians and journalists.

Perhaps in the CNBC interview we had a glimpse of things to come.

Smiling widely,one of the CNBC ladies wanted to know if BP's investment indicated "faith" in India! Dudley admitted that it did. God help us all.