…Sixty years ago the Republic of India gained its independence from Britain. Today we celebrate the birthday of the world’s largest democracy. Earlier on I stood before the statue of Mahatma Gandhi on the Churchilllaan and said a prayer for this most wonderful of countries. I have never been there, but I once worked with a man who helped to make it all possible, Sir Olaf Caroe. He was India’s last Foreign Secretary under the British Raj and Peter J. Brobst assistant professor of history at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio has written a book about Sir Olaf called “The Future of the Great Game,
Sir Olaf Caroe, India’s Independence, and the Defense of Asia.” Brobst writes, “The Great Game originally described Britain’s efforts to maintain India as a base from which to defend the Persian Gulf and southeast Asia against rival empires. As British India’s leading geostrategist during the end of imperial rule, as well as the last British governor on the Afghan frontier, Sir Olaf Caroe saw the future of the Great Game. He predicted with remarkable acuity how the struggle for mastery in South Asia’s borderlands would play out beyond the end of the Raj.
In the aftermath of 9/11, much as Caroe foretold, flashpoints continue to light up from Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf to Nepal and Burma; threats range from terrorism and insurgency to naval expansion and nuclear rivalry. India commands the vital center, its power key to the overall stability and defense of Asia.
This book examines Caroe’s thinking to illuminate both the geopolitics behind India’s independence in 1947 and the historical precedents of contemporary South Asian strategy.”
My own work with Sir Olaf was in connection with the question of Tibet and its refugees in India. It seems fitting that I have just returned from visiting my own Tibetan spiritual friend Geshe Damchos, who I first met in those wonderful days over thirty years ago. The world is changing and today India is emerging as a new economic superpower. It is all the more fitting to remember the compassion of the Indian people in offering a home to many Tibetans including the Dalai Lama. The Tibetans are a peaceful people and one day they will be free again. Sir Olaf was an expert on the country where the US is now hunting down Al Qaeda as this article in the Pakistani Daily Times shows. The great game goes on today but now India is a major player with its own agenda. When asked what he thought of Western civilisation, Gandhi said he thought it would be a good idea. We have much to learn. I myself have learned much from India. The Sanscrit word ahimsa is what my nursing teacher said to me on the day I qualified. Namaste, India! A happy birthday to you and all of your people.