the new great game


In the 19th Century the British Empire and Tsarist Russia competed for hegemony in Central Asia. London fought to slow down Moscow’s expansionism, fearing that tessera after tessera Russia would have reached the borders of India, which was Britain’s most prized possession. Russia instead worked to restrict British influence, in a region perceived both as its own backyard and as a buffer zone. The comings and goings of spies and wheeler-dealers, ruthless traders and officers, the ups and downs of plots and intrigue, double-crossing and diplomatic discourtesies reported between the Caspian and Kabul during the 19th Century were catalogued under one single heading, the Great Game. The copyright, it is said, came from Arthur Conolly, an English secret agent serving with the East India Company. The novelist Rudyard Kipling took possession of the saying, bringing it to the attention of the public. Times change, as do situations, empires die and imperial democracies are born, but Central Asia, this vast portion of the world bordered on the west by the Caspian, on the east by China, on the north by Russia and on the south by Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, continues to be the theatre of significant manoeuvring. It is no coincidence that geopolitical analysts call it the New Great Game.

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