Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

Turkish Empire had it not been for the glorious past history of Greece ; Egypt would long ago have been annexed outright by Great Britain but for the nobility of Egypt's past in the days before she was most unhappily conquered for Islam. [In fact, the easiest way for the present ruler of Egypt to attain complete independence for himself and his successors between Alexandria and Wadi Halfa would be for him to dissociate himself from Islam as the established religion of his country, and to re-christen his eldest son Ramses.] In like manner the part which Persia has played in the world's history will, when the curse of Islam is lifted from

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]



the schools of that country, promote a feeling of national selfrespect which may abate the present love of civil war and of private and public robbery ; while at the same time it will always raise up for Persia champions among the enlightened nations of Europe who will oppose the effacement of her nationality. But for a long while to come the best which that country can do for herself is to follow the counsels which she receives from St. Petersburg, London, and Delhi.

The strategic objections raised, and recently revived in The Times, are: (1) that a railway through Persia to India connecting that Empire either with the Russian system of railways in the

[ocr errors]

north-west, or with the projected German-Turkish Baghdad line, will deprive India of its inaccessibility on the land side for the armies of the continental European Powers; (2) that it will prejudicially affect British shipping by taking away passenger and mail traffic to transfer them to a railway system almost entirely in the hands of foreigners; and (3) thereby weaken our interest in the Suez Canal. I think it will be found that a calm examination of these protests (singularly like in character to the protests on the part of Lord Palmerston when he attempted to obstruct the digging of the Suez Canal) will show their insufficiency as deterrents from a policy which would permit or even actively encourage the linking up of the railway systems of India with those of Nearer Asia. It is, of course, quite right on the part of The Times and other journals and reviews to insist on these projects being most carefully examined before the country is committed to their acceptance. But when all due weight is given to military opinion (sometimes a little behind the times, both from an ethical and an ethnical view-point), I think it will be granted that the objectors to the Trans-Persian railway projects are in the wrong when they veto any Trans-Persian railway; but are in the right when they discourage the creation of a line traversing Persia far inland, via Teheran, Isfahan, Yezd, Kerman, and Guattar. The railway best suited to considerations of strategy from the British point of view would be one which proceeded from Basra viâ Bushire to Shiraz and Bandar Abbas, and from Bandar Abbas followed closely the coastline of Southern Persia to Baluchistan until it was linked up with the Indian system at Karachi. This would enable the Trans-Persian railway, from the point where it entered the British sphere in Persia, to be easily reached, supervised, controlled, defended, or attacked from the sea coast of the Persian Gulf. Consequently, such a line, long as Great Britain held the seas, could not be used easily for the invasion of India, neither could it be easily attacked and destroyed by any Afghan or Persian rising against the new order of things. On the other hand, the line via Yezd, Kerman, etc., would pass comparatively close to the borders of fanatical Afghanistan, would lie for a good deal of its course through the Russian sphere of Persia, and might be made much more use of by Russia for any menace or attack on the Indian frontier in conjunction with Afghanistan. Of course, in regard to this last consideration and the vulnerability of India generally, it must be remembered that a Russian railway has long since

[ocr errors]

• Which before many years are over will have connected the western end of the Persian Gulf with Calais, except for the break of two or three miles of sea between Constantinople and Scutari.

been constructed to the very frontier of Afghanistan, to Kushk, a point not much more than 450 miles from the Indian frontier; and that if Russia alone or in alliance with Germany (and a RussoGerman alliance is a very possible conjunction in the future) became inimical, this Kushk line would give her the power of invading Afghanistan with an overwhelming force of soldiers, rapidly overrunning that country, and (assisting her invasion to some extent by rapid railway extension) attempting the invasion of India, in all probability with the co-operation of the plunder-loving Afghans. Such a project, however, has, I believe, passed for a long time to come beyond the range of practical politics in the minds of Russian statesmen. They are far too much concerned with the needs for strengthening Russian influence and control in the heart of Central Asia (Chinese Mongolia and Turkestan), the development of Siberian resources, and the staving off of the flood of Chinese immigration, and have not the slightest desire to embroil themselves with the British Empire in order to attempt the conquest of India.

Nor is a similar danger to be feared from Austro-Germany if the Baghdad line is completed to the Persian Gulf and links up with the Persian railways. By the time Austro-Germany has attained her full and legitimate expansion in becoming the dominant commercial power in the Turkish Empire and among the Slavic and Albanian peoples, Teutonia will have become as peace-loving as Great Britain now is. What has either AustroGermany or Russia to gain from attacking the British in India? The cost of such an enterprise would quickly make them bankrupt, and the victory would truly be a barren one. They mightit is conceivable--effect the submergence and destruction of the British power in India, but, having done so, neither they nor any other possible conjunction of white nations possess the necessary resources to reconquer India from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin. No other European Power could ever replace Great Britain in India. If the British Empire fell in that region its place would be taken by a congeries of Asiatic States, but the civilisation of all Southern Asia would have received a set-back so frightful that it would be the worst calamity which had yet attained the human race.

On the contrary, the best security for Great Britain on the Ganges and the Indus (as on the Nile) would be the growth of German commercial interests and investments in the lands watered by the Euphrates and Tigris. Next to that of Great Britain, no other European Power carries on such a considerable and lucrative trade with British India as Germany alone, still more Germany and Austria-Hungary combined.

Of course, as I have pointed out in other writings, the

[ocr errors]

arrangement of the Russian sphere in Persia was most clumsily conceived by the diplomatists who settled it some years ago. The Russian sphere should have extended from Tabriz, Resht, and Kazvin, to Bandar Dilam on the Persian Gulf, thus giving Russia a short and direct access to the warm seas of that gulf, and supplying the trade of the Caucasus and Southern Russia with that direct access to the seas of Southern Asia which Russia is entitled, by her proximity, her mass of population, her lawful ambitions, to acquire. The British sphere over Persian Baluchistan is a modest one in area and absolutely necessary to us, since it cuts off always-hostile Afghanistan from gun-running access to the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. Moreover, , it is a region in which there are not many real Persians, or in which even the Persian language is widely used : it is either ethnologically a part of Arabia or Tartary, or to a great extent belongs to Dravidian Baluchistan. In between the existing British sphere and Armenian-Georgian-Kurdish-Arab Persia (the Tabriz-Shustar-Muhamrab strip which ought to be the Russian sphere) stretches real Persia, the country really inhabited by the Persian race speaking the Persian language. This, indeed, should be created a buffer State, and given every encouragement to maintain its independence and to develop its resources for the benefit of the Persians, even if to assist in that end the area of the British sphere were considerably diminished. But the fact that a section of the railway from Mesopotamia to India ran through a part of real independent Persia, near the coast of the Persian Gulf, would not be inconsistent with the existence of an independent Persia; any more than the fact that the future railway route to India likewise ran through Bulgaria and Turkey need disquiet the minds of patriotic Bulgarians and Turks. Russia, of course, would link up Caucasia with this Indian railway at some such place at Ahwaz, and would thus obtain access to the Gulf at the port of Bandar Dilam ; or she might cross the Indian railway and proceed straight for the Persian Gulf at some suitable place, such as Muhamrab or Bandar Dilam.

I have no doubt any such arrangement would be of immense benefit to Russian commerce, but why this fact should so distress British strategists I cannot think. We cannot expect to have everything in this world; and the constant objections which are made to this or that loosening of control or lessening of the dog-inthe-manger policy because Germany, France, Russia, Belgium, or some other country would profit thereby seem to me idiotically short-sighted and arriéré. All these countries are good customers of ours, and the more they prosper the more they buy from us; while all the time we are trying to sit on everything we cannot

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

use we not only fetter our own advance, by raising up great enmities, but our very efforts to play the dog-in-the-manger distract us from pursuing profitable business on our own account. Moreover, it must not be forgotten by the strategists that if the Russian or the German tortoises protrude their heads and necks from their armoured shells, and acquire a seaboard here, there, and elsewhere, the rest of the Kruger metaphor can be applied. The tortoise may be making an excellent meal by its lack of reserve, but it has given hostages to fortune, it has become very vulnerable, especially to a great sea power. The Russian sphere in Persia as at present arranged is a menace to the peace of Asia. The Russian sphere re-arranged, giving Russia direct access to the northernmost end of the Persian Gulf, would be of immense benefit to Russia commercially, would be an enormous relief to Persia, and much less disturbing to India.

The other objections of those who oppose a railway to India through Persia are that mails and passengers would have to pass through Germany, that the railway would be inimical to our mercantile marine, and would cause our interest in Egypt to slacken.

A Germany made friendly by reasonable concessions in regard to the Nearer East or in any other direction would be as good a country as any other for British passengers and mails to travel through. But if by that time the British people were so silly as to maintain an attitude of dislike to Germany (who has the best managed, most comfortable railways in the whole world) it could be easily arranged, no doubt, that mails and passengers went through France, Italy, and Austria to Constantinople before they embarked on the line of the Germans and Turks which was to take them to Baghdad and Basra. But why should it be any better to secure the railway access to India through Russia ? It is less direct, in the winter time it is far more severe climatically, and, unless the whole character of the Russian Government changes, it is a journey made very disagreeable and difficult in the matter of passports. And even then to attain Russia by railway you have to traverse Germany in her greatest breadth, unless you perform a portion of the journey by the very disagreeable sea voyage across the North Sea' and Baltic.

But there is an alternative route which will certainly be developed in course of time, that through Spain to Tangier and all along the north coast of Africa from Tangier to Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, Alexandria, and Ismailia. A British railway might well be constructed as an appendage to that of Baghdad from Ismailia across Northern Arabia to Koweit, which would link on to the Trans-Persian railway at Muhamrah.

What a lot of railway making! the impatient reader may

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »