Deccan Chronicle

Book Review | Who's who in the New Great Game that has started in Afghanistan

Deccan Chronicle.| Anil Bhat

Published on: February 19, 2022 | Updated on: February 20, 2022

The US abandoning Afghanistan to let it fall to the Taliban is one of the greatest catastrophes of the 21st century

Cover image of the book 'Afghanistan: The New Great Game' Edited by Alok Bansal. (Twitter)

Cover image of the book 'Afghanistan: The New Great Game' Edited by Alok Bansal. (Twitter)

The Great Game, also known as Bolshaya Igra, is described as one of intense rivalry between the British and Russian Empires in Central Asia, beginning in the 19th century and continuing till early 20th century in which Britain sought to influence or control much of Central Asia to buffer the "crown jewel" of its empire, British India. In fact, one of the fallouts of this game was the British partitioning India, which not only led to a massive horrific and tragic human displacement, but also one for which India and Afghanistan are both paying dearly till date.

While India found its own feet and managed to stay unruled by foreign powers, though certainly not uninfluenced, Afghanistan so far seems fated to continue to suffer tremendously, mainly at the hands of Pakistan. One cannot but help be reminded of the Afghan game, Buzkashi, in which opponent teams of horsemen strive for possession of the headless carcass of a goat or calf. Most ironically, the carcass of that game is what the state of Afghanistan is like, particularly since its second takeover by the Pak-bolstered Taliban.

The US abandoning Afghanistan to let it fall to the Taliban is one of the greatest catastrophes of the 21st century. The images of people running to cling to aircraft taking off from Kabul and falling to death showed their desperation to escape Taliban rule of which they have horrific memories. How the world abandoned Afghan citizens to medieval barbarians, especially women and minorities, to further their perceived geopolitical agendas should haunt the international community`s conscience.

No sooner had the people of Afghanistan gotten over the repercussions of the Great Game that was once played in the region more than two centuries ago than they find themselves embroiled in another one. The linkages of the new masters of Afghanistan with global jihadi outfits provide clues as to the New Great Game that has commenced in the region.

The book analyses the circumstances that enabled the Taliban to stage a comeback, the suffering of its people, the New Great Game being played in Afghanistan and its possible impact on the region and global power dynamics.

Captain Alok Bansal, who has edited the book and penned its introduction, is director, India Foundation, secretary general of Asian Eurasian Human Rights Forum, founder executive director of the South Asian Institute for Strategic Affairs, a visiting professor at the Pakistan Studies programme at Jamia Millia Islamia and former executive director of the National Maritime Foundation.

The writers are Harjeet Singh, Omar Sharifi, Harsh V. Pant and Saaransh Mishra Ajay Singh, P. Stobdan, Vinod Bhatia, Soumya Chaturvedi, Sanchita Bhattacharya, Syed Ata Hasnain, Sanghamitra Sarker, Ashraf Haidari and Nadeem Shah. Ashraf Haidari and Omar Sharifi are Afghan nationals. Haidari has been director-general of policy and strategy at the ministry of foreign affairs in Afghanistan. He was also its deputy ambassador to India. Omar Sharifi, a doctor, lived in Afghanistan throughout his youth, including the civil war years. In 2003, he helped establish the Afghan Foundation for Culture and Civil Society, and became head of its research and publications department. He is currently head of the American Institute for Afghan Studies in Kabul.

The book is important for researchers and those who wish to gain an insight into the developments that have overwhelmed Afghanistan.

Anil Bhat, a retired Army officer, is a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi

Afghanistan: The New Great Game
Edited by Alok Bansal
Pentagon Press
pp. 224, Rs. 795/-

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