HC Deb 15 May 1874 vol 219 cc337-42

, in rising to call attention to the necessity of a recognition of the Independence of the Amir of Kashgar, and of a delimitation of his territory, said, the subject was brought before the House a year ago; and therefore he would now speak only of the present and the future not of the past. A few days ago, in reply to a Question, he was informed by the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for India (Lord George Hamilton) that Mr. Forsyth had concluded a Commercial Treaty with the Amir, but that it had not yet reached this country, and therefore it could not be stated whether the Treaty recognized the Amir's independence; but the noble Lord must have been aware that such a question could not have been left entirely to Mr. Forsyth, who must have been explicitly instructed either from the Foreign Office, the India Office, or Calcutta. We had taken immense pains to close our Indian Empire on the side of Afghanistan, as it were, with a side-door, to which the territory of Kashgar was the front door, and beyond that, the great importance the Russians attached to questions of boundary, and the way in which they watched our proceedings on this side of India quite as much as they did on the other, invested this matter with more importance than many which occupied the attention of the House. With reference to the independence of Yakoob Khan, the Amir of Kashgar, it must be remembered that he was looked upon officially as a mere rebel against the Chinese power, and that our Government, by making a Commercial Treaty with Yakoob, did not by that act alone recognize his independence. In dealing with European Powers, a Commercial Treaty would have been a recognition; but a very different state of things was found in Central Asia. Russia, for instance, made arrangements, called Treaties, with the small Princes on her boundaries, whose sovereignty at other times of her history, she entirely repudiated. Our recognition only showed that we regarded him as a successful rebel or robber chief; and Russia also took distinctly that view of his position. The Chinese Government, so far from abandoning the territory, had appointed a Governor of the Amir of Kashgar's dominion, a commander-in-chief, and there was an army which, however, existed only on paper. It would be found, on consulting the latest maps, that the position of Yakoob Khan was most precarious. An elaborate map in the last number of The Edinburgh Review marked the Russian frontier round the Amir of Kashgar's dominions as running along the tops of mountains and through the centre of the passes; but since then the Russians had penetrated to the southern slope of the mountains, and they commanded the whole of the passes, and might be at the capital of Kashgar only five days after a declaration of war. The Russians had forces at Fort Naryn, at Kouldja, and at Fort Vernoe, so that there were 8,000 Russian troops within distances varying from three to 10 days' march from Yakoob Khan's capital. It was true that Russia had of late appeared friendly to the ruler of Kashgar; but she had never recognized him, and it was quite possible that a change for the worse might arise from the expected appointment of a new Governor of Turkestan, in which case, the Treaty said to have been made with the Amir by Russia might, like many others, be only an arrangement which might be repudiated at any moment. There was no expectation that Russia would occupy Kashgar ostensibly on her own account, but it was conceivable that she might do so on behalf of China, and it would come to the same thing, for such an occupation would equally excite the native mind in India, as if Russia had occupied Kashgar herself. In fact, whether the occupation was by Russia or China, the tranquillity of British India would be equally menaced. The object he had in view in calling attention to this subject was to give the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for India an opportunity of explaining how far Her Majesty's Government were aware of the importance of preserving Yakoob Khan's power in Central Asia, and of stating whether they were prepared to recognize his independence more formally than they had hitherto done.


said, the Question of the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) seemed to imply that he did not consider the present Ruler of Kashgar independent; but the very fact of our having sent an envoy to the Amir proved the independence of that country, for we should not send an envoy to what the hon. Baronet called a "robber chief." [Sir CHARLES W. DILKE said, he put the expression into other people's mouths. He did not use it as his own.] He understood the hon. Baronet to infer that the Chinese looked upon Kashgar as their own, and the Amir as a mere usurper; but the fact was that with regard to the Chinese they had been themselves mere usurpers, having conquered the territory about a hundred years ago, and been at last expelled by a rising of the people. When the Chinese domination came to an end, a member of the old ruling family was set on the throne; but he proved himself so utterly unfit for the position that one of his chief officers—no other than Yakoob Khan—was placed by the people at the head of affairs. Since that time Yakoob Khan had been the undisputed Ruler of the country, and the Chinese were regarded by the people as having had no right to be there at all. The hon. Baronet seemed to be very much afraid of the approach of Russia, but anyone who looked at the map would see that Russia was separated from Kashgar by a series of almost impassable mountains. On three sides Kashgar was bordered by lofty mountains, not less, perhaps, than 18,000 feet high, and to the East there was a trackless desert; while the passes nearest to the capital, on the Russian side, were at least seven marches off. His (Mr. Forsyth's) brother, who was now returning from a Mission to Kashgar, had written a private letter to him, in which he said that he had the most complete assurance the Amir would give no just cause of offence to his neighbours; that the British Mission was perfectly understood by him to be a mission of peace, in which unfriendly feelings towards Russia had no part; and that care had been taken to impress upon him that England, Russia, and Turkey, with whom he had now entered into friendly relations, would treat him with consideration only so long as he acted strictly up to engagements, ruled with justice and mercy, and treated all traders with equality. He would further say that the people of Kashgar were strict Mussulmans. They looked up to the Sultan of Turkey and were not at all likely to throw themselves into the arms of Russia, and he could assure the hon. Baronet that there was no cause for alarm about the present position of that country. There was a vigorous and able Ruler at Kashgar who was perfectly willing to treat both with England and Russia, and the only rivalry between the countries ought to be a peaceful commercial one.


said, he had, in the first place, to congratulate his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Forsyth) on the success which, through the energy, tact, and ability of his brother, had attended the Mission to Kashgar. When the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) the other night put a Question with regard to the Treaty which had been concluded with the Amir, the text of that Treaty had not been received at the India Office, and he (Lord George Hamilton) thought it best to be cautious in what he said, because there were at times difficulties in interpreting Treaties, and he wanted to defer his Answer until he had had an opportunity of seeing it. It had now been received, and if it was moved for, there would be no objection to lay it on the Table. In the Preamble of the Treaty the Amir was recognized as distinctly as words could do it, for it was there stated that the engagements were entered into with the Amir of Kashgar and his heirs and successors. That fact afforded a sufficient answer to a leading part of the inquiry of the hon. Baronet. If the hon. Baronet would refer to the Correspondence laid on the Table last Session, he would find, at page 11, that Sir Alexander Buchanan, writing on the 2nd of November, 1869, to Lord Clarendon said, he had a conversation with Prince Gortehakoff, in the course of which Prince Gortehakoff told him that Mr. Forsyth had— Spoken to him of the expediency of establishing friendly relations with Kashgaria, and the Government of the Atalik Ghazee, but he said that though that Ruler might have established a Government de facto, Russia had Treaties with China, and could not enter into diplomatic relations with a successful insurgent against the authority of the Chinese Emperor. Sir Alexander Buchanan somewhat combated that view, and Prince Gortehakoff replied that— The Atalik Ghazee had nothing to fear from Russia; but, as the Government had no relations with him, and the Government of India appear to have dealings with him, 'you can assure him on my authority that Russia has no hostile intentions towards him, or any desire to make conquests in his territories.' And in a despatch of the same date, signed by Mr. Forsyth, that gentleman reported an interview he had had with Prince Gortehakoff, in which the Prince said to him that— If Yakoob Bey proved a good neighbour, the Russians would be happy to trade with him, and possibly hereafter, if he entirely established his independence, they might be induced to enter into negotiations with him. He had so far established his independence that Russia, it was to be supposed, had felt itself justified in 1872 in entering into a commercial treaty with the Atalik Ghazee. The hon. Baronet asserted that commercial treaties in Asia did not mean very much. That was a view which it was somewhat difficult to combat; but he (Lord George Hamilton) might, at all events, answer that commercial treaties in Asia were valued and meant as much as any other class of treaty. With regard to the delimitation of the Atalik Ghazee's territories, the hon. Baronet would admit that only under certain circumstances was the delimitation of territory possible; one condition rendering it possible was that they should have the consent of the Ruler whose territory it was sought to define. Now, the Atalik Ghazee had not intimated to the Government of India any wish that his territory should be defined. Moreover, he was informed that the Chinese Government had recently sent an army with the view of recovering certain territories which the Amir of Kashgaria had acquired, and thus at that moment the Amir was at war with China. Therefore, under present circumstances, it would be impossible for the Government of India to act independently, without the sanction of the Amir of Kashgaria, and suggest to him that it should define his territory when, very possibly, that course might not be palatable to him; and even if it were palatable, the fact that he was engaged in a war with the Chinese placed insuperable difficulties in the way of such a proceeding. He trusted the explanation would be perfectly satisfactory to the hon. Baronet, for he thought it would show that, at least, the first portion of the hon. Baronet's Question had been complied with; while with regard to the second portion, the difficulties interposing had been shown to be such that he hoped the matter would not be pressed further.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.