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agent in building up equally the political and the commercial supremacy of Russia in Persia. There is discontent among the unfortunate people of the country, who see every public requirement starved and neglected ; but the Shah has an effective antidote to ebullitions of popular feeling in the presence of the Persian Cossacks. The discipline and efficiency of this brigade is due to its Russian officers, and especially to Major-General Kosagowsky. He, like the Director of the Banque d'Escompte de Perse, received his orders direct from Russia, and was subordinate, not to the Persian, but to the Russian Minister of War. These Persian Cossacks are very valuable missioners of Russia's might and of Russia's methods. They go to distant provinces, and recently recruits for the brigade have been obtained from the Bakhtiari country, once exclusively within the sphere of British influence. Another very active and important agent of Russianisation in Persia is the department of customs, officered by Belgians. These nimble neutrals have proved themselves to be the very good friends of Russia, and their zeal has resulted in a considerable increase in the real revenue of the customs. It has also resulted in a new commercial convention between Russia and Persia, wholly detrimental to British interests, and in an organised attack upon Indian trade between India and Eastern Persia. When the first line of obstruction in Seistan under Belgian supervision fails to turn back the Indian caravans by highhanded action which scares and disheartens trade, there is a second line under Russian officers, who block the unfortunate merchant on the pretext that his goods might introduce the plague into Khorasan, and thence into Russian dominions in Central Asia. This persistent obstruction is not for the sake of securing the market to the Russian producer. The whole trade of Seistan at present would not be worth such effort. But Seistan lies just midway across the shortest line which would connect the Trans-Caspian Railway with the Indian Ocean. To quote Mr. Chirol :
What the construction of another “Manchurian” railway into Seistan with its ultimate extension to some new Port Arthur on the seas adjacent to our Indian Empire would mean to India, it seems incredible that so many politicians at home should still ignore, and above all those who habitually inveigh against the military burdens imposed upon the people of India. For it is not too much to say that the construction of such a railway, with all the political and military consequences it must involve, would revolutionise at once the conditions upon which our whole system of Indian defence has been built up.
For the purposes of this article it is only necessary to bear in mind two localities: the first is Seistan, and the second is the Persian Gulf. It is useless to ignore or to deplore the fact that Russia is all powerful at the capital, Teheran, and predominant in the north of Persia. Her geographical position and her Trans-Caspian railway give her enormous advantages. That she has acquired the power of the purse is to be regretted, for we had an agency ready to hand in the Imperial Bank of Persia, a British institution founded for the purpose of fulfilling some at least of the functions of a State bank. We might have financed Persia when Russia came in, but London “liked not the security.” The lost opportunity is to be regretted, as in an Oriental State the power of the purse very usually precedes the power of the sword. The opportunity may come again. Persia under the present regime, and indeed for some years under any regime, will be a borrower, while it is possible that Russia may ere long cease to be a lender. It is equally useless to deplore the fact that the Belgians in the customs department are working hard for Russia in the South and East of Persia. It is only natural that they should identify themselves with authority, and the only authority in Teheran is Russia. But it is equally natural that we should resent and resist to the best of our abilities the intrigues and intrusion of Russia and her Belgians in Seistan and on the Persian Gulf. This is the whole question. It seems a little thing and surprising that a few Belgian customs officers, an aggressive consul or two, and some forward Russian officers, should be sufficient to alarm those who are responsible for the safety of India. But in the East nothing should be disregarded because it is little, and Russian activity and aggressiveness in Seistan and her appearance in the Persian Gulf, are a menace to our Empire. They form part of a great relentless and unswerving system of Asiatic policy, commercial, military and political. By a laborious, costly and patient policy we have maintained the Afghan buffer between India and Russia ; and for over a century we have done our utmost to strengthen and consolidate the Persian dominions. Our record in the Persian Gulf is one of which we may be justly proud. It may have been quixotic, but at any rate it has been honest and consistent. We have put down piracy, and have converted the slave-raiders and buccaneers of the Gulf into peaceful and prosperous traders and pearl-fishers. We have surveyed and buoyed its dangerous channels and have been the peacemakers and lawgivers to the turbulent tribes who dwell along its shores. In return for these services we have asked for no territorial rights and no exclusive privileges. It was enough for us that we were following our natural bent of ridding the seas of piracy and slavers, and maintaining as we thought a friendly and independent power between India and Russian aggression. M. Chirol calls our policy self-denying; a Minister of the Scotch Church in India once startled me by the vigour of his language as he deprecated the folly of working for nothing in Persia. And when one thinks of the money and lives that have been spent, of the weary existence of our officers in one of the hottest regions in the world—all for a dynasty that is foredoomed by its own worthlessness and weakness to destruction, one cannot help the thought that perhaps our money has been on the wrong horse. Still the record is a noble one, and fortunately there is yet time to save the position. For the position is lost if Russia is allowed to stultify all our past policy of frontier defence, and to turn our flank by an advance through Seistan or by way of the Persian Gulf. Happily for India and for the Empire, the present Viceroy understood the position both from the Indian point of view and from the point of view of the Foreign Office. Happily, too, Lord Lansdowne, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had been Viceroy, and knew as few know what finance means in India, what frontier defence costs, and what bazaar rumour may bring about. Lord Lansdowne, on May 5, 1903, announced that: “We should regard the establishment of a naval base or of a fortified port in the Persian Gulf by any other Power as a very grave menace to British interests, which we would certainly resist with all the means at our disposal.” Those words were received with intense relief in India, for they guaranteed the maritime frontier of the Persian Gulf, and were a frank and timely warning to Russia that what had been done in Manchuria would not be permitted in Persia. But there is still much to be done in order to strengthen our hold in the Gulf, and in Eastern Persia. Captain Mahan has dealt with the question of the Persian Gulf, and has pointed out the enormous danger to our Empire which would result from the control of the Gulf passing into the hands of a foreign State of considerable naval potentiality. He urged, however, that our naval control of the Gulf must be supplemented by other influences : Naval control is a very imperfect instrument unless supported and reinforced by the shores on which it acts. Its corollary, therefore, is to attach the inhabitants to the same interests by the extension and consolidation of commercial relations, the promotion of which consequently should be the aim of government. The acquisition of territory is one thing which may be properly regarded as probably inexpedient and certainly unjust when not imperative. It is quite another matter to secure popular confidence and support by material usefulness. Whatever the merits of Free Trade as a system suited to these or those national circumstances, it probably carries with it a defect of its qualities in
inducing too great apathy towards the exertion of governmental action in trade matters. Non-interference, laissez-faire, may easily degenerate from a conservative principle into an indolent attitude of mind, and then it is politically vicious.
As regards Seistan, the policy suggested by Captain Mahan had already been inaugurated by Lord Curzon, and he may safely be trusted to make good that most vulnerable point of our frontier. But until Lord Lansdowne uttered the memorable words which have just been quoted, the efforts of the Viceroy in the direction of Seistan were, so to speak, in the air. Now they can be, and certainly will be, pursued on solid ground ; and every officer of the Indian Government employed south and east of Persia will feel at last that he is an agent of a definite policy. Without rushing into the burning question of the day, I think it may be said that the Indian Government would be absolutely justified in throwing Free Trade to the winds for the purpose of safeguarding India against Russia. Russia's system is a policy of advance, commercial, military, and political ; and if we wish to extend and consolidate our commercial relations with Persia, we must be prepared to offer security and protection to our Indian traders. We should send the best and ablest of our political officers to Eastern Persia and to the Gulf. They should be highly paid, and should have three months' leave every year. The leave could be spent in the cooler parts of Persia or in India. With each political officer there should be a commercial agent, British or Indian, and both political officer and commercial agent should be encouraged to tour in the neighbourhood of his charge. At Teheran there should be attached to the British Legation an officer of the Indian political department. All correspondence with political officers in the Gulf and in Eastern Persia should pass through his hands. We cannot, uninvited, offer Persia the services of officers to train their rabble of an army, but the opportunity may come, and we should remember that in the officers of the Imperial Service Troops in India we possess many potential Kosagowskys. We should lose no opportunity of keeping the British power in evidence both on the shores of the Persian Gulf and in Eastern Persia; and wherever our political officers go they should be accompanied by Indian cavalry, or, better still, if it can be arranged, by mounted escorts raised in the Bakhtiari country and trained by officers of the Indian army. The money will be well spent. For above all things it must be remembered that Orientals worship force, present, visible force. Mr. Chirol alludes to the anxiety of our ally, the Sultan of Muscat, regarding Russian influence in Persia, and mentions “ the sense of grave impending changes which prevails amongst the whole native population of that region.” He notices, too, that in the Bakhtiari highlands, so important as a screen against advance from the north of Persia to the Gulf, a feeling is springing up that our power is waning, and he says that the Bakhtiaris “would very soon learn to turn their eyes towards Russia if her ascendency were once brought home to them.” It is the same everywhere in the East—it is the cult of the rising sun. It would be, perhaps, presumptuous to enumerate measures which might restore the balance of power in Persia, or to suggest a zone to which Russia's aspirations should be confined. There is no lack of experts to assist in these problems, now that a policy has been announced. The object of this article is to bring home to the English reader the fact that India is being threatened by Russia's advance, and that strong and active measures must be taken to repair the gap in our Indian fence which has been caused by Persia's palsy and Russia's push. These measures will cost money, but it is the stitch in time that saves nine. The interests at stake are enormous, and though one almost despairs of India ever becoming an object of familiar knowledge to the British public, yet there is a hope in these days of Imperial thought that England will realise that we shall cease to be an Empire when we lose India. Those who know India best always decline to prophesy the future, and those who understand the Indians best invariably say that their experience and study of Indian character always leave them baffled and conscious of the little that they have learnt. They are indeed an inscrutable people, but there are certain broad characteristics which can be safely predicated of all Orientals. Among many characteristics two only need be here mentioned. One is the worship of force, and the other is the extraordinary power of waiting. Many years ago an enterprising man imported a steam plough into India. It did not succeed, and the mighty machine was left derelict on the land. The Indians smeared it over with vermilion and worshipped it as a god. It might be useless, but it represented force and power. So too while our administration is based on unquestioned power and force, we shall enjoy the respect and loyal acquiescence of the Indian people. But if our power be challenged in a practical and concrete manner there would be doubt and unrest throughout India. Many interests would stand firm, but the restless minority would be sufficient to throw the whole continent into disorder. Nothing is more striking and, indeed, nothing sadder than the ease with