The Great Game — also known as Bolshaya Igra — was an intense rivalry between the British and Russian Empires in Central Asia, beginning in the nineteenth century and continuing through 1907 wherein Britain sought to influence or control much of Central Asia to buffer the “crown jewel” of its empire: British India.⁣

Russia, meanwhile, sought to expand its territory and sphere of influence, to create one of history’s largest land-based empires. The Russians would have been quite happy to wrest control of India away from Britain as well.⁣

Considered as a colonialist cold war between these two superpower, this conflit led, among other things, to the creation of Afghanistan, with the Wakhan Corridor, as a buffer state. In fact, over the years, the borders of the two empires came closer and closer. This decision led to the creation, of a independant “buffer state” (Afghanistan) which was also explained by the fierce resistance of local tribes in a mountainous environment difficult to control.⁣

Why was it important to India?⁣

British was obsessed with Russia, expanding into Central Asia towards the end of the 19th century, would take Tibet, creating a European rival next door. ⁣

In 1904, the then viceroy, Lord Curzon, became convinced that the 13th Dalai Lama was Russia-leaning, and sent the Younghusband expedition to Tibet. Francis Younghusband and his troops invaded Tibet. The Dalai Lama fled to Mongolia before Younghusband reached Lhasa and forced the humiliating Lhasa Convention on Tibetans. They were also to pay a war reparation of Rs 75 lakh — one lakh rupees every year until the amount was paid. Chumbi Valley, wedged between Bhutan and Sikkim, was to remain with India.⁣

when the British needed to settle India’s northern boundary, it had to invite the Chinese at the 1913-14 Simla Summit to displease the Russians. The boundary treaty, however, was made only between Tibet and India. Which gave birth to McMahon Line (border line between Tibet and the North-east region of India).⁣