Pity that a fantastic travel book that came out recently didn’t receive attention in Delhi - The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds: A tale of espionage, the Silk Road and the Rise of Modern China by Eric Enno Tamm. It is, of course, vintage Great Game [to which, by God, I'm addicted for lifetime] - recount by an adventurous Finnish traveller who retraced that legendary once-in-a-millennium journey across the vast Central Asian steppes and killer deserts by Baron Gustaf Mannerheim, Finnish-Russian aristocrat who, as a Russian spy travelled 17000 km overland to Beijing a hundred years ago and reported back to Tsar Nicholas II in St Petersburg his ‘findings’ about China.
Oh, how I miss life and times in the Central Asian oasis town of Tashkent. Still remember sitting in a vineyard near Andijan [from where Babar set out to conquer Hindustan] drinking vodka and munching kebabs and shashliks on a sunny, windy hopelessly cold winter noon with the curator of the local museum peering at the hazy outlines of the impossibly rugged mountains of Pyeongchange Range, beyond which, he claimed, lies China….
Anyway, why is it India has lost the desire or curiosity about Central Asia? And China’s shadows are lengthening over Central Asia. At one point Tamm says while travelling through Kyrgyzstan, what struck him is that the local bazaars are so similar to Walmart - they are so full of Chinese goods.
No one here noticed that Emomali Rahmon had just had a wonderful time in Pakistan. From Islamabad, he travelled to Karachi to learn first hand how the Silk Road terminal is going to look like when the US project is complete. By the way, US has begun next round of diplomacy to link up Pakistan irrevocably with CA. Negotiations have begun to extend the scope of last year’s Pak-Afghan Trade & Transit Agreement to include CA states. Things should pick up now that Raymond Davis file is closed.
After the setback over Ani airbase, we seem to have withdrawn into a shell. Ani was not a realistic proposition any way - unless we have the underpinning of a strategic understanding with Iran. Am saying all these meandering thoughts not as criticism but to drive home something needs to be done urgently. Thought had been brewing in my mind for a while to suggest it is time to put bygones behind and look ahead, We seem to lack constructive ideas. Talk to Russia. Meanwhile, just read that US and China have formed an FO-level ’sub-dialogue’ on Central Asia. After the first session in Beijing with Chinese Asst FM Cheng Guoping, US asst secretary of state Robert Blake said discussions were “very productive and constructive”. US wants to get into SCO. Quite obvious US wants China’s support in that noble endeavour. Blake stressed US has commonality of interests with China in CA and wants to “collaborate and coordinate”. He lavishly recognised China’s special interests and “important role” in CA. Incidentally, Blake didn’t feel it important enough to raise Sino-Pak nuclear cooperation on Chashma 3 and 4 reactors! On the contrary, US seeks greater Chinese involvement in the stabilization of Afghanistan. Quite meaningful trends, indeed.
Posted in Diplomacy, Military, Politics, Terrorism.
– March 19, 2011