Thursday, December 15, 2011

US vs China: Rivals or Partners

The terminology of Great Game was initially coined by Rudyard Kipling. He brought world’s attention towards the rivalry for a region between two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. The region for which they were competing holds its importance even today. Much has altered since that traditional rivalry and competition has thwarted. The Soviet empire dismembered and the United Kingdom had to abandon its colossal empire following WWII. While both Czars and British feared each other and desired to keep Afghan territory under their influence, the nature of current context is far more complicated.

The New Great Game is a strife among many powers, regional and global, as well as, big and small. Russia, China and the US are the key players. The Central Asia is a large and resourceful area as compared to barren, mountainous Afghanistan. The economic disposition of conflict makes it remarkable. The region comprises the Central Asian Muslim dominant states, bordering the Caspian basin. What makes the Caspian basin and adjoining territories so attractive is the presence of oil. The oil in general has become a source of political tussle among the states.

China is operating equally along side Russia in devouring energy deals. This provides an equal clientele to the Muslim Central Asian republics. This Chinese policy is far more attractive than facing Russian monopoly as previously. China offers a useful counterweight to Russia. A network of pipelines between Central Asia and China is gradually taking shape, and Russia appears to be realizing that China is not just a useful partner for keeping west out of Central Asia – it is also a competitor. However, as European energy growth slows, Russia too needs alternative markets for its oil and gas, and China has managed to secure preferential treatment there as well.

Many analysts who write on Central Asian energy wealth, often focus their concentration on plight of Afghanistan solely, which has made CARs vulnerable, due to the insecurity prevailing in Afghanistan more like a domino effect. At the critical juncture of their independence the Central Asians were fearful as they lost Soviet backing, their security provider. These weak and fragile states were the onlooker of Taliban civil strife in the decade of 1990’s dreading the spillover effect and that seems the same today. In 2011, the consequential effect of US war in Afghanistan is haunting the Central Asian regimes. The drug trafficking, smuggling, narcotics, human trafficking and arms trade etc is delaying their economic well being and becoming cause of derailment and frustration for many opportunists.