The Great Game

“The Great Game is afoot,” Sherlock would have told Dr. Watson, being a master on world power, and the ways of men. The one who controls the “Stans” controls the world, is an old saying from my childhood. The British and Russian empires fought over them in their heyday, and now Russia and the US have fought for power in Afghanistan and the other states in these regions. India’s time has come and now it is seeking its rightful place, in its own backyard and with countries it has long cultural ties. Too long did its soldiers fight for the British empire and lose its economic might, to a foreign ruler. Now it’s time to redeem itself, in economic history, has finally arrived. For the best part of the last two millennia it had the largest GDP, and was a relatively rich nation, with wealthy citizens. Now it is a poor cousin, and till recently almost broke, with few foreign reserves.

“The International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) connecting Mumbai with St Petersburg and beyond – which has been 17 years in the making – is set to be operationalised from the middle of next month with the first consignment from India to Russia. India, Iran and Russia had in September 2000 signed the INSTC agreement to build a corridor to provide the shortest multi-model transportation route linking the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran and St Petersburg. INSTC has been expanded to include 11 new members – Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus, Oman, Syria and Bulgaria (as observer),” as reported in the Economic Times.

This is not a small step and its timing is strategically significant in modern history. America and Europe have traditionally controlled political and economic world trade and China has emerged as an economic power now. Russia and Iran have lost their luster and India is still shaking off its half-naked fakir image. Indian democracy is finally maturing into a nation building, efficient government. The ease of business is slowly improving, and its credit rating has also inched up. Slowly it is emerging as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and has a long runway ahead of it. Its young population is aspiring to join the world citizenship, on an equal footing. This new road to prosperity is linked to its billion people, rising out of poverty, to make a new world order. The answer is open international trade, as was learnt from the success of NAFTA in the Americas, and the EU zone’s amazing growth over the years.

This collection of faded country names and forgotten players in the international game, may be the next economic wonders. The area has enough energy and other resources to bring prosperity for the next century. With Indian industry slowly coming into its own, massive projects can now be undertaken on a global scale, multilaterally. The plans for development in these regions, can bring great productivity and human improvement. The people have suffered enough and are now ready to become part of the community of nations. Equal rights and high aspirations driven from a rising democracy, has great power, as was witnessed, in the last two world wars. Military might can only come from economic might, and nations have often bankrupted themselves, in trying to achieve the first, without the second. The path to prosperity is only through more trade and the use of the best that any human, can bring to the market. Only legal, safe, open trade can make India great again, and this is a wonderful first step. Will the people of the “stans” now rise to the their rightful future, is a mystery, that even Sherlock will have to light his pipe and ponder!

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