THE NEW GREAT GAME | Essay for CSS and PMS | web4study


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The term ‘Great Game’ was first coined by Arthur Conolly in 1829. He was a British intelligence officer, explorer and writer. He was a captain of the Sixth Bengal Light Cavalry, who worked for the British East India Company. Arthur Conolly used this term to describe the struggle between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for domination over Central Asia.

The Great Game refers to the strategic rivalry between the British and the Russian empires in a bid to maintain their supremacy over Central Asia that is rich in natural resources, main oil and natural gas. The Great Game period continued from 1813 to 1907. It started with the British-Russian rivalry in Afghanistan. The British feared that the Russian Empire’s expansion in Central Asia would threaten their domination of the resource-rich India. The British believed that Afghanistan would become a staging post for a Russian invasion of India the fear led the British to launch the first Anglo-Afghan war in 1838. The attempt to impose a puppet regime under Shuja Shah in Afghanistan ultimately failed in 1842 due to the attack of the Afghan mobs on the British.

A second Anglo-Afghan War erupted when British diplomatic mission sent to Kabul in 1878 was turned back by Sher Ali, the then ruler of Afghanistan. The Britishers were infuriated because an uninvited diplomatic mission of Russia was welcomed by Afghanistan but the Britishers were declined similar treatment. The war’s conclusion left Abdur Rahman Khan on the throne, who agreed to let the British maintain Afghanistan’s foreign policy.

1n the run-up to World War I, Germany’s increased activity in Central Asia brought Russia and Britain closer and brought an end to the classic Great Game. Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 closed the Great Game. The Russians accepted that the politics of Afghanistan were solely under British control as long as the British guaranteed not to change the regime. Russia agreed to conduct all political relations with Afghanistan through the British. The British agreed that they would maintain the current borders and actively discourage any attempt by Afghanistan to encroach on Russian territory. Persia was divided into three zones: a British zone in the south, a Russian zone in the north, and a narrow neutral zone serving as a buffer in between.

However, in 1917 another phase of the great game began which led to the third AngloAfghan war in 1919. This was a result of the assassination of the then ruler Habibullah Khan. His son and successor Amanullah declared full independence and attacked British India’s northern frontier. The issue was resolved with the Rawalpindi Agreement of 1919. In May 1921, Afghanistan and the Russian Soviet Republic signed a Treaty of Friendship. The United Kingdom imposed minor sanctions and diplomatic slights as a response to the treaty. 1n 1928, Amanullah abdicated under pressure.

With the advent of World War II came the temporary alignment of British and Soviet interests. With this period of cooperation between the USSR and the UK, the Great Game between the two powers came to an end.

The New Great Game is a term that refers to modem geopolitics in Central Asia as a competition between the United States, the United Kingdom and other NATO countries against Russia, the People’s Republic of China and other Shanghai Cooperation Organisation countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia. The competition for actual control over a geographic area has been taken over by pipelines, tanker routes, petroleum consortiums, and contracts.

For Central Asia, the breakdown of the USSR was a time of economic, political and social crisis, but also of new opportunities, including the chance to seek new partners and allies. The US, Turkey, Iran, India, Pakistan, China and Russia itself were quick to establish relations with the new countries. The starting point is what is now known as the famous ‘New Great Game’, which is none other than a modem version of the traditional power plays in the region by the major empires of Russia and British previously. However, the present game is much more complex due to the larger number of players involved. The renewed ‘Great Game’ is due to the increasing importance of Central Asia, stemming from the existence in the region of vast reserves of hydrocarbons (oil and gas) and minerals like uranium, and because of its age-old strategic position as a link between major markets (Europe and Asia). Central Asia is an area offering certain geo-economics advantages to countries or multinational corporations that have particular regional or global aspirations.

Some publications have termed the region the second Persian Gulf. Proved crude oil reserves total around 40 billion barrels, a very far cry from the reserves in other regions. The only country in the region with the real capacity to become a major crude oil exporter in the short term is Kazakhstan, and it is here that the multinational oil giants have set their sights. Overall, Euro-American companies control a large number of Kazakh oil reserves, with US companies leading the field. Russian companies come second followed by China. The presence of Western countries particularly the US, in the breakdown of oil reserves is overwhelmingly larger than that of Russia and China.

The great game over Central Asia is being continued on the verge of a new century, this time · with the United States replacing the United Kingdom. The United States is pitted in this struggle against Russia, China, and Iran, all competing to dominate the Caspian region, its resources and pipeline routes. Complicating the playing field are transnational energy corporations with their own agendas and the entrepreneurs who have taken control after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The rivalry continues with plans for new gas pipelines to Europe from Russia and the Caspian region. The Russians plan South Stream – a pipeline under the Black Sea to Bulgaria. The European Union and the U.S. are backing a pipeline called Nabucco that would supply gas to Europe via Turkey. Nabucco would get some gas from Azerbaijan, but that country doesn’t have enough. Additional supply could come from Turkmenistan, but Russia is blocking a link across the Caspian Sea. Iran offers another source, but the U.S: is blocking the use of Iranian gas.

For the United States, the Central Asian region is of both emerging importance and emerging challenge. Ever since America went to war in Afghanistan, the vast region of Central Asia, including the countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, on Afghanistan’s Northern border acquired renewed strategic significance. Washi~ton built military bases there to supply the ongoing military effort, encouraging unstable and corrupt regimes ruling the post-Soviet Central Asia. Geographically this region is landlocked and had a little strategic concern for the United States during the first decade of its independence. Presently, the United States has basically three-fold interests in Central Asia, firstly, pertaining to geostrategic realities of security, particularly in the war against terrorism, secondly, to exploit the energy resources of the region, and· finally to the effort to support liberalizing and democratizing reforms in the region.

Central Asia and the Caspian base are replete with natural wealth, which is a significant aspect of geo-politics and geo-economics in the region. However, Russia holds the majority of oil export routes from reserves in the Caspian basin and Central Asia; nevertheless, the western oi1 companies are also doing effort to win this pipeline politics. Furtl1em1ore, the investments by (“china and India in oil and gas sectors have yielded more options for non-Russian export routes. The U.S. ardently interests for exploiting the untapped natural resources of the Central Asia and Caspian region. It is estimated that by 2050, Central Asia could account for 80 per cent of America’s oil supply. Indeed, the presence of regional powers particularly Russia, China and Iran are posing a threat to the United States for achieving its objectives in the region

The United States maintains two bases in Central Asia, one each in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, for its postwar operations in Afghanistan. A regional group led by Russia and China has pressured the United States to remove its forces from Central Asia. The United States says the bases are necessary for its efforts in Afghanistan and claims it does not intend to have a permanent presence in the region.

As early as 5 Oct 2001 the U.S. secured pern1ission to establish a military base in Khanabad in southwest Uzbekistan and by December of that year had established another base at Manas, just outside of the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek. The United States began leasing both Soviet-era bases during the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. They are used primarily to station soldiers, refuelling jets, and cargo planes. Each airfield houses roughly 1,000 U.S. troops and civilian contractors. The August 7, 2010 edition of the Washington Post substantiated earlier reports that the U.S. plans to establish a comparable base in Kyrgyzstan, which like Tajikistan borders China. The article revealed that “The United States is planning to move ahead with construction of a $10 million military training base in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, the site of a bloody uprising in June called the Osh Polygon, the base was first proposed under former Kyrgyz president Kunnanbek Bakiyev as a facility to train Kyrgyz troops for counterterrorism operations.”

With the announcement of new U.S. military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in addition to the indefinite maintenance of those in the latter country, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and with American and NATO military strength in Afghanistan at a record 150,000 troops, there is no indication that the Pentagon and the North Atlantic military bloc intend to leave the strategic arc that begins in the South Caucasus and ends at the Chinese border.

Afghanistan is adjacent to Middle Eastern countries that are rich in oil and natural gas. And though Afghanistan may have little petroleum itself, it borders both Iran and T,µrkmenistan, countries with the second and third largest natural gas reserves in the world. Rivalry for pipeline routes and energy resources reflects competition for power and control in the region. Pipelines are important today as they connect trading partners and influence the regional balance of power. Afghanistan is a strategic piece of real estate in the geopolitical struggle for power and dominance in the region.

The war in Afghanistan is not and has not been for the last 30 years about ideological alliances between the “democratic” west and the previously “communist” Soviet Union; it is about control of massive oil fields in central Asian countries and how to secure pipeline routes to deliver that oil to market. One is the war of gas pipelines, second is of energy resources and third is of NATO which is trying to reinvent itself. NA TO was searching the reason for coming to this area. The New Great Game in Afghanistan started when the US attacked it after 9/1 I. Afghanistan acts as the geographical bridge to control Central Asia. Many believe that the US-led invasion of Afghanistan after 9/1 I is part of the Afghan pipeline war and war of natural resources. There have been suggestions that Bush’s decision to invade Afghanistan could have been influenced by oil money. George W. Bush’s connections with the oil industry are well established. There is evidence of surprisingly close ties between Bush’s U.S. Government and big oil companies, partly brought to light through high-profile cases of alleged corruption involving U .”s. government officials and major oil companies.

America plans to tum Afghanistan into an “energy bridge” by helping to build a natural gas pipeline across it. The pipeline, called TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) would carry Turkmen gas through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India, with all three countries drawing supplies proportionate to their needs. America likes the idea because of the TAPI the pipeline would supplant a rival proposal to pipe Iranian gas to Pakistan and India.

There are a total 9f six military bases of Us in Afghanistan. The US has established Bagram Airfield is a militarized airport and housing complex that is located next to the ancient city of Bagram, 11 kilometres southeast of Charikar in Parwan province of Afghanistan. The base is run by a US Am1y division headed by a major general. A large part of the base, however, is owned by the United States Air Force.

There are two joint bases namely Shindand Airbase which is located in the western part of Afghanistan in the Heral province, 7 miles northwest of the city of Sabzwar.

The other is the Kandahar International Airport that is located l O miles south-east of Kandahar City in Afghanistan. The airport was built by the United States in the 1960s, under the United States Agency for International Development program. The Kandahar International Airport was built in 1960 in Afghanistan with assistance from the United States Agency for International Development. It may have been originally intended as a base for American strategic bombers to use in the event of a war with the Soviet Union, but the first time it was occupied by American forces was in 2001 when Marines took it over to use during Operation Enduring Freedom. Coalition aircraft are based at Kandahar to provide close air support for units operating in Afghanistan, and the airport has been gradually rebuilt by the Americans and Afghans after it had largely been destroyed and neglected during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Apart from these, there are three US marine bases in Afghanistan. Camp Dwyer is a United States Marine Corps base in Afghanistan. It is located in the Helmand River Valley, a turbulent part of the region, and it has been expanded every year since its construction. Camp Dwyer started off as a forward operating base, but its utility led Marine Corps officials to tum it into a permanent installation and to greatly increase the size of its garrison.

Camp Leatherneck is a United States Marine Corps base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Originally built for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Camp Leatherneck has changed hands between several units. Currently, the camp is occupied by elements of the l st expeditionary force and by associated combat service support brigades. FOB Delaram is a Forward Operating Base of the United States Marine Corps in Afghanistan. It is built along the Ring Road, which is one of the most heavily trafficked (and consequently, most heavily mined with IEDs) roads in the area. The Ring Road is the 2,200 km beltway of Afghanistan, connecting its major cities with varying qualities of the road surface.

The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was apparently accounted to distant Iraq of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people. However, many experts believe that the covert reason for the invasion was the occupation of the oil reserves in Iraq. Oil is a strategic commodity that everybody needs and is crucial to military power while assuring its flow to the world economy makes US power globally indispensable. To understand the real motives behind the war and why Bush saw an attack on Iraq as the solution to US problems, we need to shift the focus to its strategic hegemony over the oil market. The US oil vulnerability was on the rise. US import dependence was rising in an ever-tighter oil market with global production seemingly peaking, hence shifting the balance of power to oil producers. These conditions could make the US and the world capitalist economy vulnerable to an oil shock historically fatal for US presidents. Iraq was a solution to these potential threats for it had the world’s second-largest oil reserves and very low production costs.

The new great game is not nearing its end. Rather, this game has ignited the evils of Talibanisation” and “War on Terror”. With so many players being a part of this not-so-peaceful tussle, only time would tell who would be the ultimate winner.

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