« PreviousContinue »
INDIA'S DUAL PROBLEM
It is a matter for regret that the British public takes so little interest in India. The late Queen's Jubilees and the KingEmperor's Coronation aroused a transient excitement and a holiday enthusiasm for the stately soldiers from the East. Now and again England is conscious of the existence of personalities such as the Rajput Chief of Jaipur, the philanthropist; the Mahratta Prince Scindia, the man of action; the Sikh Raja of Nabha, famed for his wisdom and dignity; and the premier Musalman, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the man of his word. Or for a season London society may talk about the gallant Sir Pertab Singh, the courtly and accomplished Aga Khan, and the fine soldier, Afsar Daulah. But few pause to consider that all these are mere types, and that the great continent which produces such types deserves attention and a kindly and abiding interest. At present there is a vague idea that things are moving in India under the energetic Viceroy, Lord Curzon, and there is usually an atmosphere of activity around Lord Kitchener, But save when there is a war on our Indian frontier, or when a famine within our borders moves the great slow heart of England, the vast Dependency seems to be forgotten. In some way this neglect is curious when we consider the place which India occupies in our national system. Geographically she is the centre and pivot of the Empire, and the importance of this fact was recognised in the South African War, and during the operations in China. Historically, it will be admitted that the over-lord of India is always the first Emperor in Christendom. And economically it will probably be shown at the great inquest on the business of the nation, that India, both as a producer and consumer, merits some slight study. Some day, when the British public has forgotten the quaint names on the map of South Africa, and the still more puzzling corruptions of localities in China, Korea, and Japan, it will scan the atlas sheet which shows India and the countries at its West and North-West. It will become familiar with the map
of Persia and the Persian Gulf, and with the name of Seistán. That map possesses a very peculiar interest for India, and may before long acquire a very painful interest for our Empire. To those who care at all for the British Empire a book entitled The Middle Eastern Question, by Valentine Chirol, may be heartily commended. Mr. Chirol was singularly fitted for the task he has undertaken and discharged so admirably.
His special training, his peculiar qualities as a traveller and observer, his judicial mind and courteous restraint, have aided him in producing a book so simple that all can understand, so fair that no one can dispute his facts or his conclusions, and so convincing that no one who realises that the loss of India means the collapse of the Empire can lay down the volume without anxious reflections. One's only regret is that the delightful letters which Mr. Chirol sent subsequently to the Times from the Persian Gulf do not form an appendix to the book. The Middle Eastern Question is especially interesting at the present moment, for Persia and the Persian Gulf are to India what Korea was to Japan, and one reads in Mr. Chirol's easy pages the same system and methods in Persia as were used by Russia in Manchuria. All that need be known for a proper understanding of the problem is there; but a few words regarding the situation in India itself may be pertinent.
A grave and intelligent Oriental once perpetrated a pun in India. He was talking to a Viceroy on the everlasting, but ever new subject, the maintenance of our rule in the Indian continent, and he summed up his wise utterances by saying, “And all that is necessary is to keep the Hindu Kush.'" Like all puns this pun must be explained. In Hindustáni to keep the Hindu Kush may mean to keep inviolate the great mountain barrier which guards India on the north; or it may mean to keep the Hindus happy and contented. These are the two problems which confront every Viceroy, and blessed indeed and much to be envied is the Governor-General whose energies can be wholly and continuously given to the second of the problems. Within about a year after his accession to office Lord Curzon, in his Budget speech—the annual occasion when the Viceroy takes stock of the situation-alluded to the temporary depletion of the British garrison in India caused by the despatch of troops to South Africa. He explained the reasons which had led him to run the risk, and warned the Indian public that the risk could not be taken permanently.
My greatest ambition [said Lord Curzon) is to have a peaceful time in India and to devote all my energies to the work of administrative and material development, in which there are so many reforms that cry aloud to be under. taken. I see no present reason why those aspirations should be interrupted or destroyed. But I do not wish or mean to place myself in a position in which later on, should the peril come, public opinion shall be able to turn round upon me and say, “We trusted you ; we would have given you what you asked for the legitimate defence of India. But you neither foresaw the future nor gauged the present; and yours is the responsibility of failure, if failure there be."
There are two great duties of Imperial statesmanship in India. The first is to make all these millions of people, if possible, happier, more contented, more prosperous. The second is to keep them and their property safe. We are not going, for the sake of the one duty, to neglect the other. We would prefer to discharge our responsibility-and it is no light one-in respect of both.
It will be necessary later on to refer to more of these Budget speeches ; but it may be noticed in passing that these, and, indeed, most of Lord Curzon's public utterances, differ from those of his predecessors by the frank and engaging manner in which he takes the Indians into his confidence. It had been the fashion to treat what are called political questions affecting the frontiers and defence of the Indian Empire as too sacred for public discussion. If we may judge from five years' very close attention to public opinion in India, it may be safely said that this generous new departure has been attended by the happiest consequences, and that Lord Curzon's belief in taking the public into the confidence of the Government has been fully justified.
The administrative machinery in India is, for the money, as efficient as can be desired or expected. But it is always working at very high pressure. The members of the Civil Service who are running the machinery have no time to look around and examine whether all is well with the machine. They must get through the day's work as best they can, and must be content if the output is not less in quantity and quality than it was in the previous year.
It is essential, therefore, that every five years a new manager should come into the business bringing with him fresh ideas, new methods, and recent resourcefulness. The able, experienced, and devoted civilians who direct the Departments, administer the Provinces, and control the Divisions have, by reason of their long residence in the enervating climate of India, lost much of the initiative power which they possessed when they were in their prime as real rulers of Districts. They know, too, the limitations of human and official endeavour, and in the terrible stress of increasing work they hesitate to inaugurate reforms which may overtax the already over burdened executive of India. Reform, then, when it is necessary, must be initiated by the new Manager—the Viceroy fresh from England, with five years before him in which he may, for good or for evil, impress his individuality on the Government of India, or, in other words, on the welfare of the 300 million inhabitants of the countries which make up the continent of India. A bureaucratic Government is often derided and attacked by those who live under other systems; but in essentials there is the same ebb and flow in the bureaucratic system of India as in the United Kingdom. Given certain personal conditions in the Viceroy, and in the official hierarchy which surrounds him, we have the influences in their best and highest form of prudent progress and cautious conservatism.
Only five years ! “I only have five years," said Lord Curzon in a speech delivered in 1900, " within which to effect the movement or to influence the outturn of this mighty machine. For such a task every year seems a minute, every minute a second—one might almost say that there is hardly time to begin.”
This being the mood in which he regarded the task set before him, and remembering that he had boldly pledged himself in his first Budget speech to grappling with "twelve important questions, all of them waiting to be taken up long ago," it can be easily imagined how vital it was to his policy and success that India should have a respite from wars on the frontier and convulsions within her borders.
It had been confidently expected by the public of India and by officials both civil and military, that Lord Curzon's Viceroyalty would be marked by the excursions and alarums which attend the scenes of the “ Forward" drama. His career had been cast in the exciting and absorbing field of Foreign Affairs, and as a writer his engrossing subject was always that of Indian frontiers and Asiatic developments. It came then with all the greater surprise when the public learnt that the great programme of the twelve reforms—a programme which has been amplified and extended with every year of this strenuous and active Viceroyalty-was confined to internal affairs. All of them were difficult, some of them humdrum and repellent for their very obviousness, all of them most exacting and laborious both in the conception and in execution, but all of them were necessary.
There had been evil times in India before Lord Curzon took up office. There had been cruel famine, devastating plagueserious in its mortality, but even more serious for the sullen angry opposition of the people to the well-meant efforts of the Government to stay the destruction, and lastly there had been a costly and very disquieting war on the North-West Frontier,
The machinery of Government had been strained and was creaking. Space does not allow even a brief description of the vitalising effect of Lord Curzon's visits to plague and famine centres ; nor of the personal hold which he quickly gained over the Indian princes and the people. It is true, as the Bombay Corporation expressed it, that in " the short period of two years he had won their hearts, captured their imaginations, and extorted the respect and admiration of the whole country.”
No light achievement, and one fraught with great political results. Troops were sent from the Indian garrison to Africa and China ; all classes vied with one another in practical loyalty and Imperial enthusiasm : famine and plague worked their havoc, but there was no murmur of sedition or hostility. At this crisis of our national existence the conduct of India was without reproach, and those who were behind the scenes felt proud of the Indian character, and proud of the great and tactful statesman, who had drawn out and given free play to the latent loyalty of India's millions.
While the Empire rocked with the clash of conflict the work of reform went on quietly and steadily in our Eastern Dependency. Famine strained finance, and wore out the brave officials who “ died at their posts without a murmur.” Plague puzzled the best brains, and exhausted the patience of the people and the treasuries of the towns. But in spite of these calamities the Viceroy pursued his programme of reform without swerving. These reforms may be briefly enumerated. First comes the reform in Frontier Policy, the very antithesis of the Forward Policy, as understood by soldiers. The regular troops were withdrawn from advanced positions in tribal territory, and concentrated in posts upon, or near, to the Indian border, their place being taken by bodies of tribal levies trained up by British officers to act as a militia in defence of their own valleys and hills. This policy, styled by its author a policy of military concentration as against diffusion, and of tribal conciliation in place of exasperation, has so far succeeded admirably, and counts among its warmest supporters the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Kitchener. Next came a very important reform which had baffled successive Governments for twenty-five years. This was the creation of the Frontier Province, a difficult and troublesome problem, but now that the change has been made men wonder that it was not made before. The object of this reform was explained by the Viceroy in a few words to the thousands of frontier representatives who met him at Peshawar in April 1902. because we thought that the peace and tranquillity and contentment of the Frontier were of such importance that they ought
" It was