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to induce the belief that her Majesty's Government have designs on the other side of the river, and that speedy action on the part of France is necessary to secure for her à share in the contemplated annexation.' *
It is not worth while even to summarise the series of letters, reports, and somewhat fruitless negotiations that ensued. In December 1892 the English Foreign Office finally replied to the French proposals in a letter which was read at Paris in an ambiguous sense, and which not impossibly produced, unintentionally, upon a sensitive and not very stable ministry the very impression that Lord Salisbury had desired to avoid making. IIowever this may be, it is clear that early in 1893, when the forward colonial policy gained a predominance in the councils of France, the French officials at Saigon lost no time in discovering sufficient grounds or pretexts for assuming towards the Siamese Government a very menacing attitude, and the French chargé d'affaires in London complained that ‘for the last • ten years France had been suffering a series of petty 'wrongs and encroachments on the part of Siam. All this culminated in the issue of an ultimatum demanding the cession to France of all territory in Siamese occupation on the left bank of the Mekong, to which, as it was enforced by a vigorous blockade of their capital, the Siamese inevitably submitted.
Looking back over the course of these transactions, we may admit the probability that if, in 1889, Lord Salisbury had been able to take M. Waddington at his word, and to fix the Mekong as the parting line between the spheres of influence claimable by France and England respectively, the French would, nevertheless, have advanced eventually, though with greater deliberation, to the left bank of that river. It may also be conceded that whenever the agreement between the two nations should have been disclosed, the Siamese would have had some colourable reason for suspecting that a virtual partition of their territory on the Upper Mekong was under contemplation. On the other hand there would have been this advantage: that the French would now be under a formal diplomatic engagement never to cross the river, whereas at the present moment they are under no such obligation. So that the whole of Siam between the right bank and British territory would, in any event, have constituted a far broader and more solid barrier
* Foreign Office to India Office (No. 17, May 14, 1892).
against any ulterior approximation of English and French possessions than can possibly be erected by the international commission which is now undertaking the awkward business of measuring out a small, artificial, and not very trustworthy buffer (état tampon) on the Upper Mekong. We fear that the outcome of these proceedings cannot fail to leave us with a narrow and weak barrier towards French Siam, and that we have missed an opportunity of establishing on that side a compact Siamese kingdom, which, either under our protectorate or under a treaty of neutralisation, would have been as serviceable in keeping us at a convenient distance from France in Asia as is Affghanistan in holding Russia courteously at arm's length. And one consequence must be that, whereas in the vicinity of Siamese or Chinese outposts the frontier can easily be controlled by a few stations of our armed police, we may before long find it necessary to set guards along the French border line upon the military scale required by European usage in similar situations.
Finally, with regard to the only Asiatic Power with which India is seriously concerned, it must be manifest that, whatever may be the result of the war raging between China and Japan, it cannot fail to affect our confidence in the comparative security of that long section of our Indian frontier which marches with the Chinese territory. Let it be supposed that the Japanese succeed in inflicting a vital blow upon that great empire which from time immemorial has dominated Eastern Asia. In that event it is to be expected that insurrection, local revolts, and brigandage will again, as in the time of the Taeping rebellion, break out in Yunan and Kashgar, the provinces furthest from the capital, and will thus throw into confusion precisely those countries which border upon our Indian possessions, and also lie within the reach of France and Russia. Such a state of affairs would in all probability afford to the two European Governments very fair arguments for the necessity of extending their own influence in the interest of order. And it is quite possible that in this manner we may find ourselves face to face with European rivals upon points of our frontier where we have hitherto acquiesced in the exclusive system maintained by China against neighbourly commerce and communications, because, although she has declined to let us into her house, she has kept out others effectually. Russia might not let go an opportunity of placing Kashgar under her protectorate or of resuming the occupation of Ili, which she retroceded to China in 1881; while the French would be under strong temptation to anticipate our trading enterprise in the markets of South-Western China.
But let us make the very conceivable supposition that China, by a tremendous effort, shall have repelled the Japanese invasion and maintained her political equilibrium, or that foreign mediation shall have saved her. In that case, after so sharp a lesson against the danger of neglecting the modern art of war, she will almost certainly proceed to raise a powerful standing army, organised upon the European model, drawing unsparingly upon the copious resources of wealth and population that must be available within that immense dominion. We do not by any means accept to their full extent the speculative conclusions upon which the late Mr. Charles Pearson (in · National Life and • Character ') founded his prediction that China will sooner or later become a most serious danger to the British power in India. Yet it must be obvious that what Japan has actually achieved may be also accomplished by China, whose people are known to possess the qualities of enduring courage, of industrious ingenuity, while the organising faculty might easily be developed among their governing classes. Nor can there be the least doubt that a Chinese empire armed to the teeth, under a capable despot with a reformed administration, overhanging our Indian frontier from near the sources of the Oxus south-eastward to the upper waters of the Mekong, would complete the gradual transformation, which has already begun, of the old political system in Asia into that condition of jealous diplomatic watchfulness, of great armaments and fortified frontiers, which has probably reached at this moment its climax in Europe.
With these contingencies in view, and remembering the great importance to our Indian empire of maintaining, so long as it may be possible, the status quo in China, we can readily understand the motives that may have induced Lord Rosebery's Government to make overtures for a joint mediation of the European Powers between China and Japan. It is, unfortunately, no less easy to comprehend the indifference, to say the least, with which France and Russia may have contemplated such a proposal, and their refusal to entertain it. We believe, nevertheless, that England has no reason to regret having given proof of a friendly disposition towards the Chinese, nor do we think that the failure of the attempt affords adequate ground for declaring that it ought never to have been made. To those who watch the slow, uncertain revolutions of politics in Asia, where the era of barbaric invasions and vast conquests seems to have closed, leaving the huge mill-wheel of change inert and stationary until forced into motion by the current of European forces, it must be interesting to speculate upon the apparent shifting of the traditional Eastern Question from the shores of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea to the other side of the continent-to China, Japan, and Manchuria.
It is due to the memory of the late Tsar, Alexander III., to record the fact that his attitude and policy towards this country were not only not adverse, but friendly, pacific, and straightforward in the course of these transactions. The result has happily been a material improvement in our relations with Russia. But whilst the death of the late sovereign is sincerely deplored by England there is every reason to hope and believe, from the close personal and domestic ties subsisting between the reigning families of Russia and Great Britain, that their political relations will be governed by the same principles. Nothing can tend more to the maintenance of peace, both in Asia and in Europe, than a good understanding between the two great European Powers that rule the north and south of Asia. They have many interests in common-interests far more important than the questions that divide them—and their united action might possibly lead to the termination of the present disastrous war in the far East.
The precursory symptoms of some such transition may already be discovered in certain significant changes of our frontier policy. Up to the last ten or twelve years the expansion of our dominions had taken the form of subduing open, accessible, and fertile countries within the gengraphical limits of India, whose population was more or less (except in Burmah) homogeneous with our subjects in the older provinces. Although we annexed Sinde in 1843 and the Punjab in 1849, our jurisdiction stopped at the foot of the Affghan and the Baluch hills; while beyond Kashmir, which acknowledged our suzerainty, the tribes and petty rulerships along the slopes of the Hindu Kush and the Karakoram mountains lived in savage independence. Within the last twelve or fourteen years, and particularly within the last five years, we have taken under our guardianship all the passes leading from India through the highlands into Affghanistan, and from Kashmir northward to Badakshan and the Pamir tablelands; and we have occupied the Baluch plateau, whence the defiles run down into Sinde. On our eastern frontier the large enclave of hilly country lying between Assam, Chittagong, and Burmah has been brought into subjection, and roads through it have been opened up. Beyond the frontier of Burmah towards China and Siam the Shan States have become our tributaries; on the south of the Shan States the Karen country has been set in order; and even the wild races in the almost unknown tracts to the north of Burmah have been partially brought under our authority. Our determination to hold all the avenues into India, to keep the keys of all its gates, to open out trade routes, and to control barbarism, not only within, but beyond the line of our actual possessions, necessitates the imposition of political jurisdiction and military control upon a great variety of tribes with whom it had been an axiom of our earlier policy not to intermeddle except when raids on our border had to be punished. Whereas formerly we were content to leave the custody of these passes in the hands of the independent clans, it has latterly been thought imperative that we ourselves should take charge of them. Out of this change of policy various consequences are flowing. We are including within the sphere of empire some very unruly races, who will not be easily tamed down to quiet incorporation with the general population; we are multiplying the military points to be held and the length of frontier to be guarded; we are pushing forward our stations to greater distances from the centres of supply and reinforcement; the lines of necessary communication become longer and less secure. All these circumstances compel us not only to increase our army strength, but also to modify its composition, for service among Affghan hills or in the high valleys of Gilgit and Chitral is disliked even by the native soldier of north India, while the southerners are in no way fit for it. Upon this subject we may quote an extract from the Blue Book.
• It must be borne in mind that the conditions of soldiering in India have undergone an almost complete reversal since the time when the native force was called into existence, or, it may even be said, was last called out for extensive active operations within the country itself. The points of resistance have shifted from the interior to the frontier, from the mild and constant temperature of the tropics to the fierce extremes of heat and cold in the mountains and tablelands of the north-west, and to the swamps and thickets of the far east. Within the period now in question the Indian soldier has been called upon to breast the fastnesses of Affghanistan and the Ilindu Kush, to be "sniped” by fugitive dacoits in the scarcely penetrable bamboo forests of Burmah, and to man a zariba in the eastern Soudan ; and going back not so very many years, we find him on exhibition in Valetta and piloting the elephants of India over the mountains of Rasselas." It