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THE GREAT GAME

THE GREAT GAME The Great Game-the term commonly used for the struggle among the world’s great powers to dominate Central Asia-was played between two major imperial powers in the 19th century Both Great Britain and Russia sought to gain the upper hand in the region; Britain in order to protect its dominion over India from possible encroachment by Russia; and Russia in order to strengthen its soft southern belly against possible prodding by Britain The Great Game became dormant after the emergence of the Soviet Union as a world power The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the grant of independence to the Central Asian Republics revived the conflict, however, especially when it came to be realized that the region held vast amounts of oil reserves The Great Game of the 1990s was about the access by Russia and the West to the oil reserves of Central Asia As Western oil companies became involved in prospecting for oil in the region and in marketing the oil brought to the surface, the question of the direction to be taken by the pipelines carrying oil became of paramount importance Of the several routes investigated, the Russians favored the one that terminated at Novorossiysk, their port on the Black Sea The Western oil companies seemed inclined to bypass Russia altogether, taking the oil pipeline from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, through Georgia to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean The new Great Game and its outcome had tremendous significance for Pakistan The countries involved included a number of Muslim countries to its northwest-Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan among them



There was also some interest in laying down a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 on the United States and Washington’s decision to use its military to dislodge the Taliban regime in Afghanistan brought America into Central Asia The United States set up military bases in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to oversee its operations in Afghanistan While the government of President George W Bush encouraged the development of democracy in the Muslim world, it was prepared to turn a blind eye toward the despotic rule of most presidents of Central Asian countries

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