The phrase "Great Game" was coined by Rudyard Kipling, an Indian born British writer who settled in America . Many Indians of vintage Raj education admire his Jungle Book and just so stories, without knowing his racist but contemporaneously politically correct works like Kim or his poem, The White Man's Burden. Christianity has always used religion, civilizing the heathen and commerce as an entry point for colonization and exploitation. Despicable though it is, the fault lies with the gullible, part forgiven for their desperate need and poverty. It has preyed on the poverty and ignorance of the masses to spread the faith, just as Islam has used the sword and differential taxation and privileges to further its growth when it was socially acceptable to resort to these means. With the advent of human rights and the new enlightenment, Islam's devices have been discredited and so it has switched to bribery as a means of conversion by taking a leaf out of Christianity's book. This is not to trivialize the genuine obsessive devotion of the dedicated to improving the lot of the poor and diseased, that the Mother Teresas and Waqfs of the world labor untiringly for, despite their non-humanistic religious obsession based on arrogant certitude tinged with kindness. Significantly, it is the curse of the Hindu caste system and its resultant disparities that is a fertile milieu for bribed conversion. It is also the enlargement of the propertied bourgeoisie with something to lose, that is the most fertile medium for fostering democracy, so long as it is tightly controlled.
There is an ancient Indian myth of Brahma, the creator giving his millennial audience to all sentient creation, which included demons, humans and gods. His single syllabic advice was "Da'. "Daya" or compassion transforms a being from demon to human," Daan" or charity transforms a human to a god and "Daman" or control is what keeps a being from sliding down the slope of divinity. An interesting aside is that the bulk of descending fibers from the most recent and highly evolved cortex of the human brain (neo-cortex) are inhibitory, just like the Upanishadic concept of god, "Neti" "Not this", ad infinitum. God is thus like mother, always first saying NO.
The original Great Game was the seismic clash of the British Empire desiring to pre-empt any threats to India , the Crown Jewel, by the expansionist Czarist Russian empire. Afghanistan was the battleground and the three British-Afghan wars are the historical testimony of those events with the ultimate realization by the British that it was better to pay a tribute to an unstable Afghan ruler to create a buffer zone between the two behemoth seismic plates to forestall a catastrophic tectonic clash. A similar historic precedent was the buying off of the southern Slavs by the Byzantine Empire .
The New Great Game has trifurcated like the Catholic or Hindu Divinity and is centered in the Middle East, Central Asia and South America . It is currently being played between America and China , with a resurgent Russia riding the Chinese tiger and its uncertain outcome, out of a frustrated nostalgic glory like Britain hanging on to the coattails of America . Russia , a dethroned superpower in an economic and demographic meltdown, but still with advanced technology, is using China as its proxy to get revenge for its dethroning and hoping to bide its time to return to its glorious status. It, like Germany is one of the rare nations that cannot be kept down for long. They fulfill Cardinal Neumann's definition of genius, an infinite capacity to bear pain. The recent hoopla of D-Day June 6, the invasion of Normandy , as many honest European writers have noted, is tampering with history by the victors. At the time of the Allied invasion, the Russian armed forces were already at the gates of Berlin . Twenty-five million Russians died in WW2 as compared to less than half a million British or Americans. Its unfortunate choice of a foolish and destined to fail communist philosophy and government contrary to human nature, was a constraint imposed of its evolution. Similar evolutionary constraints are seen politically and biologically in the earlier French Revolution, the Islamic Iranian revolution and why pigs can't fly. In a feudal society with intolerable atrocities on the have-nots by the privileged, the natural extreme swings of the pendulum of human ab-reaction inevitably lead to the bloodbath of the Jacobins or the Ayatollahs. Political insurgencies like water follow the path of least resistance and gravity and find an outlet that is less likely to be suppressed and unfortunately down-slope from the upward incline of decency. In Iran it was Islam and the same tragedy is likely to recur in most Arab states and possibly Indonesia and Malaysia , as well as Central Asia .
A Dharmayuddha or battle between good and evil took place on the plains of Kurukshetra. The wide swath of land from West, South and Central Asia has become the new Kurukshetra, where an epic battle is being fought between two evils, hence an Adharmayuddha, the exploiting neo-cons and the fanatic zealots, both arrogantly certain of their infallible delusions. The rest of the world waits with trepidation in the hope that both will come to their senses and not trample the innocent grass like two fighting elephants. We have a repeat of history, because the gret game was also fought between the two evil empires of the British and Russian monarchs.
Leaders and politicians the world over are often unethical, amoral beasts motivated by greed and power. The difference is that in America they are shortsighted with inability to visualize the future, but not xenophobic, in Europe, farsighted but constrained by their past history of internecine warfare, devastation and reformed from their racist exploitation, but unfortunately not yet reformed enough to eliminate their xenophobia, in China, xenophobic and farsighted enough to restore their historic old glory with a chip on their shoulder for extracting their pound of flesh, in Japan, schizophrenic about their militarism and American victory inspired apathy and in India, just greedy for money and lust for power without foresight or planning destined to be subjected to buffeting Brownian movements by forces beyond their control. In the eighteenth century before the industrial revolution, the large populations and land mass with the antiquity of their civilizations and their innovativeness simply because of time, China and India were responsible for 75% of the world GDP, almost equally divided between them. Chinese leadership wants to restore that glory and is fostering a nationalism to attain it and to mask or divert attention from its failures and kleptocracy. The Indian leadership has no vision, goal or altruism and follows its path to personal aggrandizement to the detriment of the nation in the short or long run, while the American leadership with its addiction to instant gratification hocks its future for an ephemeral transient gain.
Let me now analyze the New Great Game Trinity. From every great nation's point of view adequate, reliable supply of energy at a reasonable price is essential for economic survival. This is why the American foolishness in Iran led to an expeditious, but equally foolish reliance on Saudi Arabia and its inevitable debacle, to invasion of Iraq and alliances with the tyrannical and unsustainable regimes of Central Asia , likely to lead to even greater disasters in the future. China also has sided with the scum-bucket leaders of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan but has still maintained a distance leaving room for escape, while America touting democracy conveniently and foolishly, betrays its origins and entwines itself with Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria and Central Asian tyrannies, destined to be overthrown like the Central and South American juntas, in a Gordian knot.
Iran , where American policies were short-sighted is the best example. Iran with a glorious past, a national pride, being one of the best educated Muslim countries with potential, has been demonized with no attempt to repair relations despite the fact that it could be an ally against Bin Laden led Sunni fundamentalism and a large source of affordable energy. The visceral bellicoseness has allowed China to form a convenient alliance by providing it with arms technology and almost assuring its veto to thwart the American designs of isolation and sanctions. The foolish, greedy and fanatic policies of the Mullahs, over time are sure to lead to a disenchanted uprising against Islam in a country that will eventually wake up to its Islamic colonization that has been dismal, compared to its glorious pre-Islamic past. To ignore Iran and build on Saudi Arabia and the Central Asian tyrannies is to build castles in a foundation of sand.
China with Russia's co-operation has formed the SCO for Central Asia and is using its new economic might, financed by the greed of American corporations for profits from cheap labor and the insatiable consumerism of the profligate and economically and fiscally irresponsible American population and government, to utilize its foreign exchange reserves to buy energy resources and eventually to constrain American foreign policy and strategic options by destining America to a debtor's prison. However corrupt, crooked and uncaring for public good, the Chinese leaders have been over eons of history, their national pride has always drawn a line in sand beyond which they do not transgress, despite conflicts with their personal weaknesses and agendas. The American and Indian leaders lack even the vestiges of this integrity. Thus they fought in Korea with the blood of their brainwashed people, when the Yalu river was crossed even though they were facing the unequal onslaught of a nuclear power. They showed the same resolve rightly or wrongly by passing the Taiwan Secession Act, even at the cost of losing the lifting of the EU arms embargo. A lesson to America is that those who don't know where they want to go will over the long run be bested by those who have a clear objective, the luxury of time and the patience to wait for their goals. Thus China and Russia are helping Iran in the development of nuclear power, missiles and aircraft and the former has signed a 100 billion dollar energy deal and may use its veto in the UN Security Council to deflect American sanctions.
The second avatar of the new trinity of the great game is in Central Asia, where China is setting up energy deals with Kazakhstan and supporting the status quo in energy suppliers like Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan . The rationale is to hamstring the Uighur insurgency in Sinkiang,, while it floods its western regions with Han Chinese migrants to make the indigenous peoples an insignificant minority in their homeland, just like it did in Tibet . This is somewhat short-sighted but the Chinese support of the despots of Central Asia is fluid and does not have the world impression of America's more vociferous support that antagonizes the opposition destined to triumph over time. China helps and supports Pakistan as a counterbalance to India , a country populous and powerful enough to be a thorn at its side and to its global intentions. America , on the other hand supports a belligerent and destined to disintegrate Pakistan , whose population bears unremitting hatred for America , for ! no long-term benefit at the cost of alienating a democratic India and a potentially better and more important energy resource rich ally, Iran .
The final and most worrisome aspect of the great game is the inroad that China is making in the backyard of America, by solidifying its support and trade with the naturally emerging leftist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia and Argentina after the exploitative Monroe Doctrine and the total disenchantment of the impoverished and oppressed masses of South America, which have failed to see improvement in living standards and reduction of wealth disparities, due to the economic exploitation of America across Central and South America and its support for kleptocratic, corrupt tyrannies there, as in the Middle East and Africa. Russia and China are selling arms and giving military support and training to governments in South America, replacing the American propaganda School of the Americas , that was responsible for training the right wing military juntas and death squads. China 's new inroads are possible because of disastrously short-sighted American p! olicies, China 's newly acquired riches because of American corporate greed and the American public's insatiable appetite for cheap consumer goods to the detriment of the nation's long-term health, wealth and survival. It is the stupidity of American leaders that they do not see the capability of damage by this Trojan horse. China , not unjustifiably is bent on avenging its past undeserved humiliation of the last century and Russia , its duping by crooked manipulators of its disastrous privatization, post-Gorbachev with American connivance and manipulation.
In the meantime American foreign and commercial policies are held hostage by vested interests on whose financial contributions, the executive and legislative branches are totally dependent due to prolonged campaigns, the cost of advertising and their high costs, just like its penchant for unregulated free enterprise, that leads to the disaster of a large health uninsured population and the coming demise of its large corporations like General Motors and a revolving door for regulators and elected persons to profit by enacting favorable legislation for lucrative private sector positions.
America is rich enough with talent to give a warning to its deaf leaders. India 's case is much worse. It is not rich or educated to formulate a far-sighted coherent policy and its leaders and intellectuals are too dumb to perceive the threat, leave alone plan or prepare to combat adverse complexities or overcome them. This leads me to the unresolved dilemma of third world developing countries. Is it better to have a greedy, power lusting, autocratic leadership with a national purpose and agenda, or a greedy, power hungry, democratic regime with no sense of national purpose or vision? Amartya Sen has analyzed statistically, that despite the millions who lost their lives during the Maoist insanities, the subsequent policies of post-Maoist China have alleviated poverty currently for more people than the bumbling democracy of India . The historical problem has another interesting parallel. Was the insurgent policy of American Indians that led to their decimation and even current social and economic failures with greater suffering, not as right and successful, as the acquiescing surrender of African-American slaves that has resulted in greater survival and economic status, despite their earlier subjugation, humiliation and oppression.
This all hinges on how one defines success or a better outcome. Keynes said that in the long run, we are all dead, but he was talking of individuals, not groups or nations. On the other hand, very often patriotism is the last resort of scoundrels. Individuals should be constrained in their choice by morality and be roasted on the spit of moral dilemmas, despite the Darwinism panacea of selfish survival, because survival though critical, has to be compatible with peace of mind, if not personal happiness that defines quality of life.. Nations, on the other hand are not constrained by the curse of morality, as Sun Tzu, Chanakya and Machiavelli. Collective responsibility is conducive to cheating, as the myth of Akbar's story of the hope of filling his swimming pool with milk on the basis of the love of his people which Birbal disproved, and is emphasized in the British experience of the tragedy of the commons, not to mention the stealing and destruction of American public housing projects in Chicago .
The tragedy of human existence is its eternal quest for justice, that leads to the beneficial good of altruism and unfortunately to its greatest curse, the invention of god and an afterlife. These latter quests of human beings are best summed up in the cynical definition of a philosopher (a lover of truth), as a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat which is not there!