HC Deb 02 May 1895 vol 33 cc275-7
Mr. SEYMOUR KEAY (Elgin and Nairn)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India—(1) whether his attention has been called to a speech delivered by Lord Elgin in the Viceregal Council early last month, in which he admitted that the Government of India foresaw that, if anything happened to Nizam-ul-Mulk, the ruler of Chitral, the position of any British officer, who might be then in Chitral, would be one of extreme danger; (2) will he explain why Lieutenant Gurdon was nevertheless allowed to visit that place in midwinter with an escort of only 10 men; (3) whether he has observed from the published Reports that the British Political Officer, Mr. Robertson, wrote to Lieutenant Gurdon on 8th January ordering him not to make his way back with his men owing to the badness of the road between Chitral and Mastuj, although, at the same time, Mr. Robertson was able successfully to send forward another 50 men to join him by the same road; (4) whether he has observed that Lord Elgin in his speech justified the sending forward of the 50 men on the ground that it was essential that Lieutenant Gurdon should be either supported or relieved; (5) can he explain why, instead of relieving and withdrawing Lieutenant Gurdon from Chitral, the Government of India ordered Mr. Robertson to follow him there; and what was their object in doing so; and (6) whether, in regard to the points above noticed, the Government of India have acted on their own responsibility, or whether they have had the consent of Her Majesty's Government?


The statements 1 to 4, extracted by the hon. Member from the Viceroy's speech in Council, are correct, save that the 50 men referred to were ordered up from Mastuj by Lieutenant Gurdon himself, being part of his own escort, not sent forward by Dr. Robertson. As was explained to the House on the 21st March, in answer to a question of the hon Member for Banffshire, the Government of India had been asked by Amir-ul-Mulk to recognise him as Mehtar; and they ordered Dr. Robertson to enquire and Report as to the propriety of doing so. The Government of India in this matter acted, as is usual and proper, on their own initiative and responsibility.


Arising out of that answer, while I admire the heroism of my fellow countrymen in Chitral, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman can he state to the House what business we have in Chitral at all, and what right we have invading a territory against the will of the natives, and putting them to death in defence of their homes?


I should like to correct a statement of the hon. Member. We have not invaded a territory. We are rescuing the representatives of the Queen and people of Great Britain who have been attacked. [Cheers]. The whole policy of the future relations between this country and Chitral is a matter that is now engaging the most anxious attention of Her Majesty's Government, and when they have fully considered the policy they think best it will be announced to the House. [Cheers].


I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether, in view of the fact that the present ruler of Chitral, Amir-ul-Mulk, secured his present position by murdering his brother, it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to support Amir-ul-Mulk as ruler of Chitral?


The question of the policy to be pursued in Chitral is under the consideration of Her Majesty's Government.

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