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timidity and self-effacement.
The pol- confidence through increased union and icy of dividing Afghanistan with Rus- military efficiency in the ability of the sia is to be opposed on grounds of prin- country to maintain its national exist. ciple, as a proceeding unworthy of our ence. It would be a grave mistake on power and reputation; but if it is to our part, when natural causes have be discredited among our politicians of produced the very union and solidity all shades of opinion, it must be shown we most desired, to turn round and that, far from strengthening our posi- assist those who wish to see Afghanistion, it would weaken it, and that our tan break in pieces. Abdurrahman anxieties and responsibilities would be has shown that a united pacific Alimmensely increased by its adoption. ghanistan is possible. British support A brief examination of the question is alone wanting to make it prove enwill suffice to show that such would during, yet those who urge us to come be the case.
It is necessary, in the first to an agreement with Russia for the place to consider what the division of division of Afghanistan would have us Afghanistan would exactly mean in wantonly destroy the work to some the form in which it would present it- extent of our own making, and cerself for solution. No one supposes that tainly one conducive to our own secu. there would be a definite arrangement rity. beforehand between the British and The most general assumption is that Russian Governments for the partition when Russia comes, with or without a of Afghanistan into provinces prior understanding, to Herat, Engspheres. The probable form in which land should at once occupy Candahar, it would be effected would be by a and many persons add Cabul as well. series of moves and counter-moves, and This would be an irregular commenceeither Empire might be the first to be- ment for the formal partition of the gin the game.
State between England and Russia. But the habit of regarding Afghan- But has any English statesman or pubistan as an empty chess-board, on which lic writer faced the consequences of we and Russia can move our pieces as those steps? Are the essential differwe wish, is fraught with danger, and ences between the two annexations for us more so than for Russia. Af
realized by those who represent they ghanistan is a difficult country for could be so dovetailed together as to military operations, and much of it is result in a common Anglo-Russian fronquite impracticable. The Afghans are tier, that would be a guarantee of peace a brave and warlike people, not to be instead of a provocation to war? But despised when armed with inferior what are the hard facts with which "weapons, and now well equipped with we should have to deal? Russia's conmodern rifles and artillery. Their value quest of Herat would be essentially a enemy
ally, is military achievement, difficult or easy not to be treated slightingly. They in proportion to the skill of the Afghan are stalwart, energetic and active defence, and the strength of the Afwarriors, animated by love of ghan garrison, but once accomplished, independence and a religious fanati- no serious difficulties would remain for cism that render them doubly formid- the new rulers in the Heri Rud valley. able when fighting on their own terri- The population is too sparse, the tribes tory. The Ameer typifies the national are too mixed with Persian and Turkocharacter, and under his iron rule of man races, and the country is too open twenty years it has lost none of its and accessible, for any formidable opferocity, while it has acquired greater position to be aroused or organized
against the Russians after the capture act, would be turned from a foe into of the fortress which dominates the the friend of Afghan independence. entire district. In plain words, a Rus- The position may be thus expressed in sian occupation of Herat, if unopposed a form that every one can understand by England, would carry with it no for himself. A Russian seizure of penalty, and would add but little to Herat does not, in the eyes of the the responsibilities of the Russian ad- Afghans, threaten, for the moment, ministration across the Caspian. The their independence; but a British occumost admirable base for military oper- pation of Candabar and Cabul destroys ations in the direction of India could it. thus be obtained without any corre- Nor does the comparative disadvan. sponding disadvantages or drawbacks. tage in which we should be placed by
Far different would be the experi- a policy of partition stop there. Russia ence of England when she attempted would be secure in her sphere by the to appropriate the portions of the coun- absence of any deep national or racial try intended to compensate ber for the sentiment, and also by the absence of Russian seizure of Herat. The sever- inhabitants. We should be embroiled ance of that fortress from the rest of with a warlike, fanatical and numerous the country would be a blow for the population, every man of which is Ameer personally, and also for the taught to use a gun and a sword from prestige of the English in India, but it his childhood. Our communications would leave the national spirit of the would have to be maintained through Afghans intact, and also their capacity the difficult country that every one has to fight for their independence. The heard described, and the battles would English advancing on Candabar, and have to be fought in regions presenting perhaps on Cabul as well, without the far greater natural obstacles than those Ameer's permission and most probably encountered in Natal. We have done in face of his opposition, would appear it before successfully, some will say, once more in the guise of enemies. The and there is no reason why we should Afghans would be certain to regard not do it all over again. But the arguwith hostile eyes any advance that did ment is doubly fallacious. We have not partake of a combined offensive never done it with a Russia ready on our move in formal alliance for the expul- flank to take advantage of our errors sion of the Russians from Herat. Our and to profit by our embarrassments. march on Candahar might not be But there is a still more serious objecopenly opposed, but it would embroil tion to the adoption of a policy of parus with a hostile population and with tition in Afghanistan. The Afghan the Durani tribes in one direction and people and ruler, notwithstanding his the Ghilzais in another. That on Cabul passing fits of irritability at our easywould be attended with greater diffi- going way of taking matters that seem culties and could not be accomplished to him exceedingly grave, are at preswithout fighting. In both directions ent far more favorably disposed towe should appear to the Afghans in wards us than they are to Russia. They the light of invaders and enemies, and are prepared to make a good fight, and they would welcome any assistance in perhaps a better one than is generally expelling us from their country. A supposed, for Herat, and after it is lost, false political move would thus undo if the Russians should prove successthe advantages of twenty years' peace ful, to go on opposing them wherever and transfer all the moral weight to they could as a national enemy. But the side of Russia, who, by our own if we step into their territory with the
intention of grabbing it, however we his efforts to defend his country, but may try to disguise the fact, they will leave it to him to decide when it would deem us as black as the Russians, and be the right moment for the Anglo-lotransfer all their hatred for both as dian army to advance to his support. Christians to us. The Afghan problem Twenty years ago the conquest of Afwill thus be rendered more difficult ghanistan was possible, or we might from our point of view, and in a wilful have broken it up into three or four and short-sighted manner we shall our- dependent principalities, but it would selves have turned allies, that might be be madness to make the same attempt invaluable in baffling Russia whenever to-day. We have been in the interval she advances, into formidable and im- an important contributing party to the placable enemies.
establishment of Abdurrahman's kingThere is one aspect of the question dom by our subsidies and moral supthat must not be omitted if the picture port. It would be exceedingly foolish is to be complete. The creation of a to hasten, at Russia's first move within feeling of enmity in the bosoms of the the Afghan frontier, to undo the work Afghans would have enduring conse- of our own hands. The policy of dividquences. It is not only that they ing Afghanistan with Russia is not one would become willing to accept the that will bear examination. I will say Russians as deliverers and as the less nothing about its inherent baseness, of two evils, inasmuch as they were but I hope I have made it clear that it foreigners on Afghan territory. But would be entirely in Russia's favor, and their thoughts and ambition would in- that it would place us at a very considevitably revert to what their ancestors erable disadvantage. accomplished in successive invasions Rather than enter upon so risky a of India from time immemorial down to partnership, it would be safer to allow Nadir Shah and their own great chief Russia to occupy Herat and the region Ahmed, of the Durani family. The north of the Hindu Kush without any Afghans have been for Turk, Mogul open opposition, and to wait before deal. and Persian, the advanced guard in the ing our blow until her forces had come invasion of Hindostan, and there is no within our reach, and the Afghans had reason why they should not discharge had time to operate on their lines of the same duties for the Russians, if a communication. The effect on the Inbungling policy on our part led them dian public opinion of inaction in face to see in our opponents the deliverers of any fresh advance on the part of from the authority we had too thought- Russia must be bad; but to place our lessly sought to impose upon them. An armies in a false and perilous position occupation of Afghan territory as the in Afghanistan, from a blind and reckreply to a Russian seizure of Herat less desire not to leave Russia alone would be a grave and, perhaps, a fatal in the nefarious project of breaking up mistake. It would alienate the Af- Afghanistan, would be to invite a more ghans, assist the plans of the Russians serious peril and a graver shock to our and land us in many difficulties from reputation and position. which we might not succeed in extri- The superior advantages of the policy cating ourselves. Under those circum- based on the maintenance of the integstances our only prudent course would rity of Afghanistan are established by be to keep within our present frontier, a consideration of its only possible alto leave the Russians to advance ternatives. To say to Russia, frankly through a hostile Afghanistan, and to and plainly, that we will make any ininform its ruler that we would second fraction by her of the Afghan frontier a casus belli, is to raise a clear and hon- matters he does not see eye to eye with orable issue. Such a step would not ourselves. Under those circumstances only satisfy the Ameer and his it would be reasonable to ask him to do people as to the integrity of our pur- things that he would not think of sancpose towards them, but it would inspire tioning under the existing vague and the whole of India with a conviction uncertain arrangement. The concession that we were in earnest, and that we of an Afghan agent in London, and felt ourselves to be strong enough to other favors to which Abdurrahman cope with Russia. No doubt the objec- attaches importance, would obviously tion will be raised that it would be justify our asking something in return; offering provocation to Russia; but is but perhaps it might be well to defer there provocation in notifying to an- the suggestion for a railway to Canother party that you expect them to ob- dahar until the Ameer began to see for serve an agreement concluded between himself that camels and pack-horses them and yourself? This is precisely did not provide sufficient means of what the British Government did in transport for the increasing trade of 1870 with regard to Belgium, and it is his country. Telegraphs are not open highly probable that it will have to to the same objection, and a request for take the same steps on its behalf again. permanent or temporary agents at Russia would have no more ground for specified points along the frontier we taking offence now than Germany and had undertaken to defend could not be France had or would have in the in- deemed unreasonable. At the same stance cited. She delimited the Afghan time, the defence of that frontier should frontier in conjunction with us, and she be left primarily in the hands of the has repeatedly declared that she re- Afghans themselves, and our part on gards Afghanistan as lying outside her the spot should be regulated by the sphere of influence. The only omission wishes and judgment of the Ameer that has to be supplied is to acquaint himself. Our policy would have comRussia with our intention that she shall mitted us to a war all over the world keep her word on this occasion, and not with our rival, and there would be treat us as she did in the matters of many more advantageous scenes of Samarcand, Khiva and Merv. The combat for us than the passes and necessity to take this step is increased plateaux of Afghanistan. But, on the by the hold Russia is acquiring over other hand, it should be clearly underPersia, which renders it all the more stood that such a war would be of necessary that there should be no un- Russia's own making. She has recertainty about our rights in Afghanis- peatedly admitted that she has no intan.
terests in Afghanistan, and it is quite Having clearly informed the Russian true. Her only possible interest there Government as to the position we took is to work us an injury, and that we up in regard to Afghanistan, our next are within our rights in sparing no efstep should be to put our house in order fort to prevent. with the Ameer. Having made his Having decided on the principle of country and his dynasty secure, we the policy we shall pursue, our relashould have far stronger claims on his tions with Abdurrahman should be consideration and gratitude than we placed on a clear footing, and the anxipossess at present, when, as he well ety he has sometimes occasioned the knows, we are hesitating as to the Government of India under the hithercourse we should pursue, and even to uncertain arrangement, affords no dubious as to his loyalty, because on all precedent for the attitude he would
take up as soon as he knew that we had confronted Russia on behalf of his country and his family. He is a man not to be duped by make-beliefs, and one who only respects strength and the manifest consciousness of strength. He knows as well as our officials the hollowness of our past intentions with regard to his country, and of how so many of our reputed statesmen would veer round at a given moment and advocate sharing his territory with Russia. Is it surprising if, under such circumstances, he should have his doubts about our friendship, and incline to think that the only course of salvation lies in excluding Christians and all their works, such as railways, from his State? The way to win his loyal and lasting attachment is to prove to him that we have as tender a regard for the continued independence of Afghanistan and for the security of his house as he could desire; and when it is realized at Cabul that the British Government has finally abandoned all intention of taking part in any division or breaking up of Afghanistan, and has pinned its interest to the maintenance of its integrity and to the recognition of Abdurrahman's heirs, there is no foretelling how this candor and certitude may influence the Afghan Court and people in favor of a more liberal and enlightened policy.
My object is attained if I have succeeded in drawing attention to the position of affairs in Afghanistan, where, at any moment a crisis may be sprung upon us, unless the wisdom, prudence and promptness of our rulers succeed by well-timed and judicious action in averting it. The defence of India is intimately connected with the satisfactory solution of the question, and the
assured safety of India is both more necessary and more difficult in a time of internal trouble for her, such as is the present moment. There are some critics of our Indian rule who declare that the present Famine is the direct outcome of our system of Government, and of the drain an English civil seryice and army impose on the country. But these same critics ignore the fact that the cause of that drain is the Russian menace, which has compelled us to increase our military expenditure, and with it the remittances home to an enormous extent. The Russian menace should be warded off by “the strong right arm" of England supporting a clear and simple policy maintaining the complete integrity of Afghanistan under all the possibly varying conditions of its internal domestic history. For the success of that policy without an undue strain on our resources, the cooperation of the Afghans themselves and their present able ruler is desirable and even essential. Their resisting power is not to be despised, and, assisted by a few engineers and artillerists, they would give Russian troops a good deal of employment, while adequate forces were being collected to deal with them. The co-operation of this brave and war-like people would mean a certain and complete triumpb in the event of war; but it would mean something else, and that is the refusal of Russia to embark upon a war in which the odds would be seriously against her. A policy based on the maintenance of Afghan integrity and independence would, consequently, be one calculated to promote peace and to postpone to some remote date any Russian invasion of India through Afghan. istan.
Demetrius C. Boulger.
The Fortnightly Review.