« EelmineJätka »
more in regard to its effects on our prestige,' from which we are still suffering.
Whether the danger apprehended to India at this period was, or was not, imaginary, is a separate question. Those who are best acquainted with the East believe that if Herat had fallen to the Persian army in 1838, and if in pursuance of that victory an alliance, which was actually proposed, had been concluded, under the guarantee of Russia, between the Shah of Persia on the one side, and the Baruckzye rulers of Afghanistan upon the other, the effects of such a combination would have been sensibly felt beyond the Sutlej,—the more sensibly, indeed, that the Calcutta Government had exaggerated the importance of the supposed hostile demonstration against India, and had made its success or failure the gauge, as it were, of British supremacy in the East. Our object, then, in recalling the panic of that fatal period is, not to show that it was wholly unreasonable, but to contrast its excessive violence with the apathy which, under greatly aggravated circumstances, we are now displaying.
At present, whether we regard the geographical extension of the Russian and Indian boundaries, or the material development of the two Empires, or the political condition of the countries which still separate them, the gravity of the situation is certainly much increased. We have, in the first place, greatly advanced our own frontier. British India has now absorbed both Sinde and the Punjab. Our detachments guard the passes and occupy the valleys which indent the mountain-chain from Peshawer to the Bolan. The shadow of our power still hovers over the more distant points of Candabar and Cabul. Farther eastward, too, Cashmere and Thibet, though nominally independent, are in reality mere outworks of India, and the boundary of our political empire in this direction is the Kara-Koram range, Russia, on the other hand, in the due course of events, and by her own natural growth, has become much more formidable as a prospective limitary power. The Caucasus, after half a century of resistance, has been finally subdued, and although powerful garrisons may yet be required for some time to come for the military occupation of the mountains, still a considerable portion of the one hundred thousand soldiers formerly employed in the field against the Circassians, Chichenses, and Daghestánís must needs have been set at liberty, and thus rendered available for new conquests in Central Asia. At the same time the material development of Russia towards the East has been enormous. A railway now connects Petersburg with Nijni-Novogorod; and there are three hundred steamers plying on the Volga between this point and the Caspian. On the Cas
pian itself the steam-vessels of all classes avariable for purposes of war number over fifty, and there is besides a small subsidiary flotilla on the Aral, which is being steadily increased. The geographical approximation, however, is, perhaps, the most important feature in this re-cast of Anglo-Russian relations in the East. While England, in taking possession of the line of the Indus from the seaboard to Peshawer, has penetrated on one side nearly one thousand miles into the Debateable land' of former days, Russia, on the other side, by incorporating the great Kirghiz Steppe into the empire, and substituting the Jaxartes for the Siberian line of forts as her southern frontier, has made a stride of corresponding dimensions to meet us ; so that, instead of the two empires being divided by half the continent of Asia, as of old, there is now intervening between their political frontiers a mere narrow strip of territory, a few hundred miles across,* occupied either by tribes torn by internecine war or nationalities in the last stage of decrepitude, and traversed by military routes in all directions.
If, then, there was danger to British India from the attitude and possible designs of Russia twenty-eight years ago, that danger must be increased a hundred fold at the present day; yet so far from being now betrayed into any paroxysm of alarm, so far from thinking of intervention in the countries beyond our frontier in order to arrest her progress, her proceedings fail even to excite our curiosity, and we seem, as far as the public is concerned, to await the threatened contact of the two empires with supreme indifference.
In the opening paragraph of this article, so singular a state of quietude on a subject of real national importance has been ascribed to the effects of reaction. No doubt the sense that our alarm formerly betrayed us into errors, will account for much of the indisposition now shown even to consider whether there is danger or not, but there are also other influences at work-influences of a loftier and more legitimate character -which have contributed, and still contribute, to the same
* From the most northern point of the Thibet frontiers in the Kara-Koran range to the most southern point of the Russian froutier in the Thian-shan range overlooking the upper valley of the Naryn River, the direct distance across the level plains of Chinese Turkestan cannot be more than 400 miles. If we adhere, however, to our real military frontier, instead of calculating from the point to which our political influence extends, and measure the road distance, the result will be somewhat different. A recent British Envoy, Moola Abdul-Mejid, travelling from Peshawer by Cabul and Badakhshan and across the Pamir Steppe to the Jaxartes, found the entire distance between Peshawer and the town of Kokand to be 1075 miles; and even the direct route by Bajore and Kafferistan to Badakhshan and Pamir which was also followed by one of the envoys from Kokand, does not diminish the distance by more than 200 miles.
end. end. A considerable section of the community—a section numbering in its ranks the principal organs of the Press and the leaders of public opinion, and representing much of the highest intellect and the purest feeling of the age-believes, and proclaims its belief, that the extension of the Russian power in Central Asia is a consummation devoutly to be wished for. To substitute civilization-albeit not of the highest type-for the grovelling superstition, the cruelty, the depravity, the universal misery which now prevail in the Uzbeg and Afghan principalities, appears to this class an object of paramount importance, in regard to the general interests of humanity; of such importance indeed as to over-ride any nice question of right or wrong involved in the substitution of one rule for another, and to throw entirely into the shade any possible injury which our political or commercial interests may sustain in consequence. Another class of thinkers, who are not prepared to carry their humanitarian feelings to so extreme a length, believe, nevertheless, that the less, notice we take of the pending Russian proceedings the better. They remember the axiom uttered by Sir Robert Peel, in the Sinde debate of 1844, that when civilisation and barbarism come into contact, the latter must inevitably give way,' and they believe therefore that, as Russia is now fairly in contact with the Uzbegs, the extinction of the separate Governments of Khiva, Bokhara, and Kokand must follow with the unerring certainty of a law of nature. They go further, indeed, and would regard any interference on our part to arrest the movement as positively mischievous; inasmuch as such interference would not only end in a miserable failure, but would recoil upon ourselves, by intensifying the effect of the Russian advance in the countries beyond our frontier, and by more completely unhinging the public mind in India. There are also, perhaps, a few who honestly think that it would be for the advantage of the British rule in India that the country should be conterminous with Russia, and that for two reasons; firstly, because we should then have a reasonable and responsible neighbour with whom to conduct political negotiations, instead of hordes of fanatical savages on whom no reliance can be placed; and secondly, because Central Asia, in a settled condition and under a European Government, would naturally be a better customer, both in regard to the export and import trade of India, than the barbarians who now encircle our North-West frontier with transit duties and prohibitive tariffs ; * who are too
* Mr. Davies, in his Indian Report on the Trade of Central Asia, 1862, has certainly given a most formidable list of duties on imports from British territory into Kashmir, the rates of duty on all our staple articles of produce and manu
poor to purchase our manufactures, and too indolent to supply our markets with their own produce. But such reasoners leave entirely out of consideration that India is a conquered country, where a certain amount of discontent must be ever smouldering which would be fanned into a chronic conflagration by the contiguity of a rival European power. They forget, too, that although Russia is at present friendly and pacific, occupied with internal reforms and disposed, perhaps, to relax in our favour the stringency of her commercial code, there is no security that such feelings will be of long duration. Let the advocates of Russian neighbourhood consider what would be the effect on the French position in Algeria, if England were to occupy the conterminous territory of Morocco, and they will obtain some notion of our probable political embarrassments when confronted with Russia on the Indus. Such a state of things may possibly be brought about in the fulness of time, and, when it does arrive, will no doubt be met by us with fitting resolution and resource, but every Englishman who has at heart the honour and interests of his country, should pray that the day may yet be far distant.
To understand the true bearing of the events now passing on the Jaxartes, and to determine the best mode of meeting, or avoiding, a crisis with which these events may threaten us, it is necessary to take a careful retrospect of Russian and English policy in Central Asia since the period of the Afghan war. This retrospect will not be entered on with any unfriendly feeling to Russia. On the contrary, the views which have actuated Russia in her Asiatic policy, during this period of history, will be given, as far as possible, on the authority of her own officers, and will be compared, in a fair and candid spirit of inquiry, with the views which are believed to have influenced England in the same matters; the object being to show how the two systems of policy have acted and reacted on each other, and thus to arrive at a just appreciation of the difficulties of the present juncture.
There is no need to dwell on the career of the Russian arms in Asia in the early part of the century. It is certain that the absorption of Georgia, the acquisition of the frontier provinces of Turkey and Persia, and the gradual subjugation of the Kirghiz Steppe, although cited by McNeill in his famous pamphlet On
facture varying from 30 to 150 per cent. ad valorem (see. Report,' p. 32); but it may be doubted if a Russian tariff in the same quarter would be more favourable to us. Mr. Lumley, indeed, in his valuable Report on the Russian trade with Central Asia, says that an attempt is made to exclude superior English cottons from some parts of Russia by a prohibitive tariff of 60, 100, or even 200 per cent. ad valorem ( Reports of Her Majesty's Secretaries of Legation,' No. 5, p. 297); and a similar scale of protective duties applies to all those articles which are likely to compete with the native industry.
the progress of Russia in the East,' as proofs of her insatiate thirst of conquest, were amply paralleled by our own annexations in India during the same period. “The law of Nature' above quoted was, in fact, allowed full scope both in one quarter and the other; the provinces conquered, or annexed, are believed to have benefited by the change; excepting, therefore, that a certain mutual distrust was created between the two European powers, no great evil arose from their respective territorial extension. It is now declared by Russia that during the ten years antecedent to the Afghan war, while she was suspected of a systematic policy of encroachment towards India, she was in reality exclusively occupied with the consolidation of her hold upon the Kirghiz Steppe, and with measures directed to the development of her commerce in Central Asia. Her proceedings in Persia—where she certainly encouraged, if she did not insti. gate, the expedition of Mahomed Shah against Herat-merely aimed, as she asserts, at the improvement of her position in that country; and the appearance of her agents at the Uzbeg Courts is explained by the previous activity of English agents in the same direction.
In tracing out, indeed, the origin of those misunderstandings between the two great powers which culminated in the Afghan and Khivan expeditions, allowance must always be made for the fact that they viewed their relative positions in regard to Central Asia from entirely different stand-points. Russia maintained, in the first place, that she had a prescriptive right to the Khanat of Khiva, * which she was justified by the law of nations in seeking to realize whenever an opportunity offered. During the 18th century five different rulers of the country had proffered allegiance to the Russian Emperor. The province, indeed, was still viewed as the patrimony de jure of the Kirghiz of the Little Horde who had been Russian subjects since 1730, and the present Uzbeg occupants, whose rule only dated from the beginning of the 19th century, were regarded as intruders. The interference, therefore, of any other European power in the affairs of Khiva was almost equivalent, in her
* The narrative of the Russian Expedition to Khiva, translated by Mr. Michell, asserts this claim categorically in numerous passages. The following is an example :- Thus, from the very commencement of the eighteenth century the Khivans had chosen five Khans who were Russian subjects. In 1700 Khan Shah Niáz paid voluntary homage to Russia; in 1703, Khan Aran-Na'amet did the same; from 1741, Abul Khair Khan and his son, Núr Ali, both Russian subjects, ruled over Khiva till 1750; and Khan Kaip, another Russian subject, held the same position from 1770 to 1780. Hence arises the positive right of Russia to the Khanat of Khiva. Notwithstanding this indisputable claim of Russia to Khiva, the Russian Government only sought one thing; that is, protection for the Russian trade in Central Asia,' &c. &c.