« PreviousContinue »
and uphold the influence which for our own safety we are to exert over those tribes and kingdoms that still remain standing as a barrier against the inevitable expansion in Asia of two energetic European Powers? No competent authority will now affirm that the policy of masterly inactivity, although it served us well thirty years ago, applies to the existing state or prospect of affairs; nor will any one contest the disadvantage of permitting the landmarks of French or Russian annexation to be pushed forward until the frontier dividing them from us becomes, as between States on the European continent, a geographical line that can be overstepped at will. There can be no doubt that the right principle is to determine what extent of country must be maintained as a barrier, and to bring that country so effectively under our protectorate as to bar out aggression from the further side, abstaining at the same time from all avoidable interference in the interior concerns of the tribes or the rulers. But this broad rule is easier to lay down generally than to carry out in particulars. For in the first place the statesman has to decide, upon considerations political, strategical, and financial, how far he shall advance and where he shall stop. What is to be, in the far northern regions along the Upper Oxus and the Pamir ranges, the line at which we are to say to Russia, with a resolute intention of making our words good, “Thus far shalt thou come and no • further'? Whereabouts, in the wild hill country inhabited by predatory clans that separates China from Burmah, are we to insist on thrusting back the Yunan mandarins, who exact revenue and levy dues on commerce ? And, above all, at what point on the upper waters of the Mekong are we to make a stand against the somewhat contentious emissaries of France, who are the harder to manage because, unlike the Russians, they know not exactly what is best for themselves ?
Secondly, whenever these exterior frontiers shall have at last been adjusted, which is as yet by no means the case, we have to consider the precise degree and measure within which it may be possible to confine our interference among the tribes and chiefships that have thus been brought under our protectorate. If the British Government, respecting their independence, endeavours to hold entirely aloof, and to leave barbarous rulers and wild folk to their own devices, there is apt to supervene a state of things not unlike that which existed eighty years ago among the native principalities in the centre of India, before the great pacification which was imposed upon them by Lord Hastings. Civil
watch upon therontier by to our for
war and tribal feuds distract the country; the beaten partisans appeal for help to the protecting Power ; while the predatory clans not only make our own border unsafe, but, what is much worse for our foreign policy, they harass the external frontier by disorderly conduct, which brings down upon the Government urgent remonstrances from the watchful rivals to whom we are particularly anxious that no pretext shall be given for aggression. In this manner we are led onward step by step into closer control and regulation of the protected belt, until we find ourselves burdened with the administration of some unruly people from whose barren hills and narrow valleys no revenue can be extracted, and who can only be quieted by enrolment into a kind of border militia, at some cost, or by the judicious distribution of subsidies.
Such are, then, in outline, the problems upon which Lord Dufferin's remarkable diplomatic skill and accumulated experience were fully employed, and which have since pressed with redoubled urgency upon Lord Lansdowne. Under the former Viceroy the most important section of the Affghan frontier was finally settled, while the acquisition of Upper Burmah determined our general position towards China and Siam. Upon the latter has devolved the task of completing our external frontier line at both extremities of the Empire, and also of giving practical shape to our relations with the rulers and tribes inside that line, whom it has become necessary to protect, pacify, and conciliate. The main object of Sir Mortimer Durand's mission to Affghanistan in 1892 was to induce the Amir to withdraw his troops from certain frontier districts of Trans-Oxiana, which lay beyond the limits up to which we were prepared to extend that guarantee of his dominions from external aggression which is the basis of our arrangements with Abdurrbaman Khan. But a second and scarcely less important object was the adjustment of a border line defining the limits of the Amir's jurisdiction on its eastern side, where a belt of independent tribal highlands is interposed between the Affghan kingdom and British India. In default of any such recognised line the tribes had been naturally prone to play off the British authorities against the Affgban rulers, and vice versa, appealing alternately to one or the other in aid of their domestic quarrels, plundering impartially, and taking aid or subsidies from both. Sir Mortimer Durand succeeded, by dint of patience, tact, and ability, in effecting an agreement with the Amir upon both these difficult questions of the inner and of the outer boundary line, so that a joint commission is just starting to demarcate the Amir's eastern border; and, as the Affghan troops have evacuated the districts beyond the Oxus river, negotiations are now proceeding with Russia for the completion of the north-west frontier of Affghanistan, which in 1886 was carried no further than the Oxus. Although upon certain minor points there may be controversy and delay, we have little doubt that within a short time this delimitation will be prolonged eastward along the Upper Oxus to its source, and thence across the Pamir plateau until it touches Chinese territory. The result will be that a broad strip of that vast mountainous region which overhangs the north-western angle of India, where it runs up to a point in the Indus valley, will be diplomatically guaranteed from the encroachments to which a masterless, ill-defined tract, separating two powerful and expansive empires, is inevitably liable. In the meantime, and in anticipation of this new frontier adjustment, the net of our political responsibilities has taken a wider cast. It has now been thrown over the petty chiefships lying north and north-westward of Kashmir on the southern slopes of the Hindu Kush mountains—Chitral, Hunza, and Nagur—and the Indian Government has imposed, not without some preliminary fighting, a kind of overlordship upon some of the tribes inhabiting those remote highlands.
In Baluchistan, the wide sparsely populated country that stretches from below Affghanistan southward to the Arabian Sea, changes of less political importance, but similar in character and result, have been taking place. It is now about fifteen years since an expedition to Kandahar imposed upon us the necessity of interfering actively in the affairs of the Baluch tribes, through whose territory lay our communications with India. The result has been that, notwithstanding the reluctance of successive Viceroys to extend their responsibilities, the British Government has been compelled, as a consequence of assuming the office of mediator and protector, to intervene more and more directly in local quarrels, for the purpose of sustaining the very weak authority of the Kelat chief, who has a kind of hereditary primacy over all the clans, and thus to stretch out a controlling hand up to the furthest corners of Baluchistan, where it meets Affghanistan on the north and Persia on the west. In those remote parts the Baluch caterans have been accustomed to harry their neighbours with comparative impunity, returning into their deserts to avoid reprisals. The local governors, Affghan or Persian, kept their borders as best they might, since diplomatic notes were just as little in fashion as on the Anglo-Scottish marches in the sixteenth century. Now, however, that the political subordination of all Baluchistan to the British Government is becoming an accomplished fact, the situation is materially changed, for the Shah of Persia or the Kabul Amir can demand either that we shall undertake to put down marauding or allow him to undertake it-a dilemma out of which issues invariably the acceptance by India of a fresh and more distant obligation.
The general result is, therefore, that from the shores of the Arabian Sea right round India to the Chinese frontier we have established a broad band of protected territory, sweeping within its circumference Baluchistan, Affghanistan, the lofty mountainous region beyond Kashmir, and some halfexplored tracts on the southern edge of the Pamir, and that within this territory our duties and responsibilities are mul. tiplying every year. Let us now observe what has been going on in the south-east, beyond Burmah, where the activity of France in Siam is producing a situation precisely analogous to that caused by the pressure of Russia upon our neighbours in Central Asia. The negotiations with China for the purpose of settling our Burmese frontier have terminated with an agreement upon a line that brings within our protectorate a tract of rough hilly country occupied for the most part by the Kachin tribes, troublesome neighbours and indocile subjects, who had hitherto paid very nominal allegiance either to Burmah or China. As in the north-west so in the south-east, this lawless independence must now be exchanged for gradual subordination to light-handed but irresistible mastership; and thus the ever-breaking shore of barbarism subsides slowly under the spreading waves of civilised dominion. The establishment of a common frontier with China, an inert and comparatively friendly neighbour, adds little to our political anxieties; but further southward, where our territory impinges on the northernmost district of Siam, the case is very different. Here the sudden developement of the sphere of influence claimed by the French, who have pushed forward by long strides up the left bank of the Mekong river, has reproduced the very problems which our negotiations with Russia have gone far to solve on the Pamirs, for here also we are endeavouring to demarcate the boundaries which are to check the further advance towards each other of the European States, and to
shoe 'slowFablishratively t further most osuddene
set up a barrier designed to prevent their actual contact or collision. The course of our pursuit after a solution of these problems is recorded in the Blue Book of the correspondence respecting the affairs of Siam.
It will be seen from these papers that so long ago as in 1889 the French ambassador, M. Waddington, made an important proposal to Lord Salisbury.
• The French ambassador called on me to-day, by appointment, to make a proposal for the neutralisation of Siam. He stated that the French Government had a twofold object in view. They wished to establish a strong independent kingdom of Siam, with well-defined frontier on both sides; and they desired to come to an arrangement by which a permanent barrier might be established between the possessions of Great Britain and France in the Indo-Chinese peninsula. Such an arrangement would be advantageous to both countries, and would prevent the complications which might otherwise arise between them.'* The discussion that followed took various turns, for neither France nor England was able to explain its own boundary to the other's satisfaction, until, in February 1892, M. Waddington called on Lord Salisbury · for the purpose of ' making an unofficial suggestion.'
* His Government were of opinion that, in order to avoid further differences between the two Powers, it might be advantageous that each Power should bind itself to the other not to extend its influence beyond the Mekong. Neither Power had yet advanced practically to the banks of that river, but this engagement would prevent either Power suspecting the other of desiring to encroach upon what was essentially Siamese territory. I objected that such an engagement would have the appearance of giving respectively to the French and English Governments territory which did not belong to the other of the two Powers, and was therefore not at its discretion to assign. He said that that was not his intention. He did not propose any engagement of a positive character; he did not propose that either Power should recognise the other as advancing as far as the banks of the Mekong; he only proposed the negative engagement that each Power should bind itself to the other not to cross that river.'
Lord Salisbury seems to have been inclined to give this project at least attentive consideration, and in consulting upon it the Secretary of State for India he made a remark which, when read by the light of subsequent events, may be certainly placed to the credit of his foresight and pene. tration.
"He would, however, deprecate a merely evasive answer, as likely
* Marquis of Səlisbury to Lord Lytton (No. 3, April 3, 1889).