§ Adjourned Debate on Motion for as Address [8th February].
Queen's Speech (Motion for an Address),—Motion made, and Question proposed,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:—
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament
assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament" (Colonel Lockwood).
§ *MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
The noble Lord the Secretary of State for India concluded his speech last night by an appeal to those sitting on this side of the House, and more particularly to those sitting on the Front Bench, to enter with him into a species of concordat as to the future Frontier policy of India, in order that the country might, in times to come, be guaranteed that, whatever Party was in power, there should be a substantial continuity of purpose and method in this perplexing and perplexed sphere of administration. I am not sure that the earlier part of the noble Lord's Speech, in which he scolded us up hill and down dale, was altogether calculated to facilitate the apparent object of his peroration. But, speaking for myself, in spite of the vigour of his attack, after a lapse of 24 hours, I feel practically convalescent, and am, therefore, able to recognise, which I do most heartily, the relatively statesmanlike and moderate tone of the appeal he made to us. But while there is much in the general principles of the Frontier policy that the noble Lord laid down, which I do not think any of us sitting on this side of the House will take exception to—I must express my opinion that the House of Commons would be abrogating its most responsible functions at a moment such as this, if it were to confine itself to a merely academic discussion on the future of our policy. What is the situation in which we find ourselves? We are at, what I suppose I must call a breathing space between two stages of a war, which, in spite of the splendid gleams of personal heroism and regimental discipline which have illuminated it, is, in our judgment, and, I believe, will be counted in history in its inception, conduct and results, one of the most inglorious adventures ever undertaken in the annals of this country. Measured by merely a pecuniary standard, it has already, as we learned last night, involved our Indian subjects in an extraordinary expenditure estimated for 647 the year at no less than 4,000,000 Rx., and as regards that which is still more serious—I mean the expenditure of life, and effective fighting force of our own and our Indian Army—in killed and in wounded, 2,000 men have already paid the penalty. What we are entitled to ask, and what, I venture to say, we are bound to demand, is a plain answer to this question, "What is it all for, and what does it all mean?" We know the Government's explanation. We have had it in the dispatches, and we had it last night in the speech of the Secretary of State for India. What is the official view—the view of the official mind—on this serious, this disastrous, transaction? Why, that it is neither more nor less than a spontaneous outbreak of fanaticism, "a bolt from the blue," which no one could foresee, for which no one is to blame, and which we are to accept as one of those inscrutable calamities with which Providence at times afflicts mankind. Our opinion is, that it is not necessary to resort to the hypothesis of miracle or accident. We believe, and it is the purpose of this Amendment to ask this House to declare, that I will not say the only—but that a large contributory factor in bringing about this state of things is the policy deliberately adopted by Her Majesty's present advisers, in the teeth of the decision of their predecessors, that that policy is the source of a large part of the mischief that has now overtaken us. When I heard the noble Lord last night formulate his new principle of Frontier policy for the future, to guide the action of the Government, and for which he asked our assent, I could not help asking myself the question whether, tested by those principles, or any of those principles, the occupation of Chitral by means of a fortified and military road would satisfy the criterion? The noble Lord told us that in these matters it was desirable to have continuity of policy. I agree, it is most desirable, but he is defending the most direct reversal of the administrative action of one Government by another in relation to this Frontier policy, which our political annals record. He said that if we sanctioned measures of advance into new positions and into new territory they ought to be such as to compensate 648 for the risk and the expenses we were put to. Yes! But what compensation have we got for Chitral?
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Right Hon. Lord GEORGE HAMILTON,) Middlesex, Ealing
It was not an advance!
§ *MR. ASQUITH
We were in Chitral, it is true. Chitral is a dependency of Kashmir, and is under the Suzerainty of the Indian Empire. We were not in the Swat Valley, and that was because we declined to go into the Swat Valley. We went through the Swat Valley under a proclamation, under which we bound ourselves to return as soon as the objects of the expedition were accomplished. We went through for purposes which we were bound, as custodians of the honour and well-being of this Empire, to discharge—to rescue a British officer from danger. We went there, as I am going to show, upon a solemn "and explicit assurance, and an assurance acted on by some of the tribes, that as soon as the expedition was completed we should not interfere with the independence of these people. I am sorry—heartily sorry—to be obliged, at this time, to go over ground which has been so frequently traversed in the course of the last few months, and which, I venture to say, was never more ably and exhaustively covered than by my hon. and learned Friend who moved this Amendment last night. But the noble Lord throws down a challenge, and he did, I think, me the honour to single me out in his challenge. He said we had gone about during the Recess unbridling our tongues, and venting on public platforms distortions and misstatements which we were afraid to repeat on the floor of this House. I hear somebody say "No, no!" but that was the inference, at all events, which the House thought the noble Lord intended to convey. I should be very sorry to have to justify, either in this House or anywhere else, the absolute wisdom of every 649 phrase or every word that I may have contributed to the "too copious rhetoric of an unusually loquacious Recess." Hut I am only arguing for a principle which is for the common advantage of every man who, in these days of public speaking, finds himself obliged to go from place to place to speak, when I say that a man is entitled to be judged, not by isolated expressions, but by the general tenour of his speeches. As far as any that I have made are concerned, I am prepared on the floor of this House to maintain every position I have taken up on the platform. I am sorry the noble Lord, in spite of what I and others have said, should have thought fit again last night to represent me as having charged Lord Elgin, the Viceroy of India, with having deliberately broken his word. I am sorry for it, because it is a statement I have over and over again disclaimed. I find, on looking back at my speeches on this subject in October last, that, after telling my constituents that the late Administration, among other reasons, refused to sanction this advance upon Chitral because, in our judgment, it involved a breach of faith with the tribes, I went on—The Indian Government took a different view, but, so far as I am aware, no one on that account impugns, or has impugned, the personal honour of its members.
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA
I must point out to the right hon. Gentleman the previous phrase.
§ *MR. ASQUITH
That is a single phrase only. I have repudiated the construction put upon it; and I think on almost every occasion I have addressed any public meeting on the subject I have not been in the habit of imputing bad motives to my political opponents, and I ask the House to believe that nothing could be more contrary to my intention, or repugnant to my feelings, than to attack an old friend and colleague. If by any word that I have used on the subject I seemed to convey such an impression, I say now, what I have said elsewhere, that I look back on it with unaffected regret. But the question I have always, I think, tried to point out, 650 whether what was done was reconcilable with the terms of the Proclamation, is a question not of motive or intention, but a question of fact; and it turns very largely on the same considerations as the question of general policy—namely, what was the real feeling of the tribes? Now, let me in two or three sentences just state what the position was. The Government of India issued a Proclamation, in which they declared they had no intention of occupying permanently any territory through which Umra's misconduct might force them to pass, or of interfering with the independence of the tribes. I ask the House, in passing, to note the word independence—it is the same word as that used in the Amendment. The noble Lord said last night it was a misleading term—a term he never used in his dispatches or letters without some qualifying adjective. It is the word used, at any rate, by the Government of India in that Proclamation, and it shows their understanding and that of their superiors at home as to the actual status of the tribes through which this road must pass. It cannot be denied—it never has been seriously denied—that to run this military and fortified road through a territory of that description, unless excused or condoned in some way or other, is a breach of the assurance given in the Proclamation. For that purpose we have only to refer to the statements made at the time by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who himself expressly declared that that was the sense in which the Proclamation would be universally understood. And now I come—and I should like to ask for the attention of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India to what I say—to one of the most extra ordinary developments in the history of a controversy which I think either I or anybody else in this House ever witnessed. I come to the question who it was that made the road. I do not wish to use disrespectful language, but of all the puerilities by which a serious topic of discussion has ever been overlaid, I tax my memory in vain to recall one which, in point of grotesque and irresponsible levity, can compare for an instant with the school- 651 astic pleasantries of the noble Lord on the subject of the making of the Chitral road. The noble Lord for two years—for very nearly three years—has been boasting in this House over and over again, at least three times, that he was the person who made the road.
§ *MR. ASQUITH
Well, twice is enough. From that very box, speaking in all plenitude of his authority as a Minister of the Crown, and with the air of a man who is conscious he has rendered great services to his country, he has told us that he was the person who constructed the road. I have really been obliged to investigate the antiquities of this question somewhat minutely, and I find, as lately as the 10th November last, 1897, tht noble Lord speaking at Acton, which is a place, I believe, in his own constituency, and where he would, therefore, be under peculiar responsibility to make statements which are accurate and historically true, informed his constituents that—I, the Secretary of State for India, on behalf of the Government, consented to the construction and maintenance of a road from Peshawar to Chitral.We were all under the impression that this was an accurate statement of the case until very recently, but on the 26th January of the present year, when the noble Lord attended, apparently, some kind of festive function at Chiswick, he used this remarkable language—The Radical papers," he says, "have for the last two years assumed that I am responsible for the construction of the road.They believed, credulous, simple-minded people as they are, believed those assurances given from that box there on the floor of the House of Commons, and they also believed that the noble Lord's statement was accurate—They have assumed that I am responsible for the construction of the road, but I have 652 kept silent, I like my opponents to commit themselves.That was at Chiswick, but last night the noble Lord made another statement on the subject on the floor of this House, which appears to be the latest and most revised version of this interesting historical problem, that it was only quite recently, as it appeared from his speech last night, that he had discovered, on taking out a map for making some casual inquiry of the gentlemen in the India Office—what he had never suspected before, that there were, in fact, not two roads to Chitral but only one. This is one of the most baffling problems that we have ever had to deal with. I do not know whether at this moment to admire his methods or to sympathise with his credulity, or are we to look upon him as a man who, having this card up his sleeve the whole time, knowing that we had made the road, and he had not come, time after time, and made these statements to the House of Commons with a self-control of almost preternatural astuteness, and then—when the psychological moment came with this Constitutional supper somewhere in the region of Chiswick in the month of January in 1898—suddenly revealed to a startled and bewildered world the fact that he had not made the road, and that all the time we had been living under a delusion. Then, of course, there is the other hypothesis: the noble Lord may be the simple-minded, credulous person that he posed as last night; and it may be that until a few days ago it never occurred to him, until last night, to inquire how Sir Robert Low, in command, I think, of 15,000 men, managed to make his way across two rivers, over two passes of Alpine altitude, and through a long series of narrow and dangerous defiles for 180 miles from Peshawar to the relief of Chitral. Did he think Sir R. Low did not go by road? Somebody suggests that perhaps he went by balloon. Well, that is practically the only alternative. I really do think, for a Minister of State at a crisis like this, with the heavy responsibilities that lay upon the shoulders of the noble Lord, and amid those great and serious events, to come down and engage in this solemn trifling is not respectful to the House of 653 Commons, and is certainly not conducive to the logical or reasonable thrashing out of the serious question now before us. The real question which, to my mind, lies at the root of this matter of Chitral, whether as regards the maintenance of the terms of the proclamation, or of the general policy of the making of the road, is this: Did or did not the tribes agree to what was done? Whenever I or others have raised this question, and have shown, as I think I have shown tonight, that the construction of a road of this sort could not be reconciled with the language of the proclamation, the answer was that it was condoned, that they exonerated us from the obligation, and that the tribes were eager and willing to receive us, and entered voluntarily into an agreement for the construction and maintenance of the road. Now, I want to say a few words upon this Agreement, for it goes to the very root of the matter. I assert that when we were considering the matter—and, of course, we had to consider this particular point in response to Lord Elgin's private telegram which was read last night by my right hon. Friend—I assert we did consider the question whether the tribes could not be brought to agree to the construction and the maintenance of the road. We were advised by the highest military and civil opinions that they could not, and that any such agreement, if it could be got, would not be worth the paper it was written upon, because it could not, and would not, represent the deliberate, genuine opinion of the tribes. My right hon. Friend asked the Government last night why in these large and carefully-edited volumes we do not find one paper which he mentioned—and I will mention another—which were most material to the understanding of this question. The first volume of these Blue Books begins with something like 30 pages of inclosures, sub-inclosures, confidential memoranda, goodness knows what, on a subject, which, I venture to say, has nothing to do with the recent disturbances in India; and these papers are inserted there for the obvious and avowed reason of branding my right 654 hon. Friend, the late Secretary for India, and those responsible with him, as being the advocates of a Forward policy.
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA
I never had to make any statement to the House in connection with this matter. The papers relating to Waziristan were not published by my predecessor, but when the disturbances arose I published them.
§ *MR. ASQUITH
What I am complaining of is not that those papers should be published, but that papers of a much more recent date, and of precisely the same character, bearing, not remotely, but directly, upon the controversy, in which the House is engaged, should not be before us. I mention two. The first paper is the one mentioned last night by my right hon. Friend, Sir Dennis Fitzpatrick's memorandum on the Chitral Road. Sir Dennis Fitzpatrick was at that time, as the House will be aware, the Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjaub; he was the officer who was primarily responsible, therefore, for our Frontier policy with the tribes. Any one who reads the Blue Book will see for himself that this officer was one of the ablest, one of the most level-headed, and one of the most sober-minded officials whom you could find anywhere in the service of the Crown. Why has not that report been produced? In the case of Waziristan—in relation to those events that happened in 1894—a memorandum equally confidential is produced, given under precisely similar circumstances. Why is not the later one produced?
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA
I have not the slightest objection to the production of Sir Dennis Fitzpatrick's memorandum, when I have looked through it and seen whether it does not contain matters that I would not wish to have published, but I have in the present case published every paper which is relevant to the conflict with regard to the disturbances which have taken place. And, as I understand, Sir. Dennis Fitzpatrick's 655 memorandum relates not to what has occurred now, but to transactions which took place some years ago. I stated at the time that the Chitral Blue Book was published that I had taken the opinion of statesmen, and that I could not publish any of the minutes or memoranda dealing with the military or strategic considerations, but, still, if any Gentlemen wish for this memorandum I am quite willing after looking at it to publish it, unless, as I have said, it contains something the publication of which might prove detrimental to the public service.
§ *MR. ASQUITH
I am very glad to hear that statement, but I am sorry that the noble Lord did not make it a little earlier. A memorandum like that of 1894, but written in 1895, is equally worthy of publication in the Blue Book. As to the other document to which I referred, I must repeat the challenge which, in the year 1895, was made by Lord Rosebery, I think, in the House of Lords, and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton in this House, for the production of Sir Donald Stewart's Memorandum. Now I have been reading that memorandum again, and I need not say that I read it very carefully. Of course, in these matters the ultimate judgment as to what is best in the interests of public service must rest with the Minister of the Crown. But I confess I cannot for the life of me conceive what interest would be prejudiced by the publication of Sir Donald Stewart's memorandum. On the other hand, I do say, if the House had before it Sir Dennis Fitzpatrick's report of Sir Donald Stewart's memorandum not only would it be in a better position than it is now to appreciate the reasons which actuated the late Government and what was the body of expert opinion on which the late Government founded its opinion, but the House would be in a better position to note incidentally as to whether the charge of a breach of faith was an afterthought or was clearly before us at the time we were considering our policy. Now, I said a moment ago the 656 real question, the question which, so much presses upon us, is: Did the tribes, or did they not, after the relief expedition had accomplished its purpose, agree to the permanent military occupation of this road? A certain number of paper agreements are produced. Well, my hon. Friend dealt with those agreements last night. They are agreements entered into at a time when you had a force of 15,000 men in the valley who were on their return from a successful military expedition. The Khan of Dir, one of the signatories, was a gentleman who was expelled from his territories, and only got back to them by joining the British forces. Unless I am mistaken, there is not one of the agreements from any tribe which has not been paid for the maintenance of the road, or did not seek for the protection of the British Government. Now I am going to something much later, I am going to ask the attention of Her Majesty's Government to a document of a most remarkable character which has not yet been referred to in the course of this Debate, but which does appear in the Blue Book, and that is the report of Major Deane, who is the Political Officer in the Swat, Dir, and Chitral. He accompanied the expedition and superintended the arrangements under which the road was made, and he has remained in charge ever since; and I am bound to say he is obviously a man of great ability and ready tact. Of course, Major Deane, being in the service of the Indian Government, to whom the execution of this task was entrusted, was desirous of making the best of the transaction. Well, on the 13th June, 1896, and I ask the House to mark the date, nine months after the road had been opened, and more than a year before the outbreaks of which we had to complain in the autumn of 1897, this is what he says. June, 1896—I am reading from the Blue Book, pages 45 and 46. I am not reading this in extenso, but I do not think I shall miss anything that is important to the question—The feeling of the tribes towards the Government is, in my opinion, satisfactory, far more so than might have been hoped to be the case.657The people themselves are somewhat impracticable; they often tax one's ingenuity to keep things working smoothly and to avoid disturbance.To maintain this line in a satisfactory manner, the point that must be steadily kept before the Khan and the tribes is the strength of the Government. Neither the one nor the other must be allowed to imagine that they are doing the Government a favour. They must feel that it is the Government who does them favours, if only in not acting on the only principles these people recognise, that might is right, in not annexing their territories. They must also feel that for the continuation of such favours it is for them to conciliate the Government. The affections of the Pathans are not to be relied on; though I have known the action of a tribe influenced by them, nothing will induce a Pathan to give trouble more surely than allowing him to think one is anxious to conciliate him.And in the concluding paragraph he says—A point that I have omitted from above, but which is an important one, is that the Political Officer here must maintain such hold and influence over Jandol, Utman Khels, etc., as he can. If these people once realise that they are free to do as they like, and the Khan of Dir once takes the same idea, the arrangements for keeping the road open will not remain undisturbed for a fortnight.These are the people who are supposed to have willingly consented to the occupation of their country for the maintenance of the road! After nine months, your own Political Officer, reporting, as I have said, naturally, with the strongest disposition to make the best of the case to his own Government, says that. It speaks for itself, and I do not think it is necessary for me, at this moment, to comment on it. Now let me come to the actual transaction itself. What was the origin of the outbreak? Fanaticism, so it was said, and no doubt, to a certain extent, it was. The Mad Mullah came into the valley, and by some mysterious providential interposition the whole place is set on fire. Well, I should like there again to ask the attention of the Government and the House to what Major Deane said in reporting what actually occurred. The noble Lord told us last night that the people who rose in arms against the Indian Government, the 658 people who attacked Malakand and Chakdara, were not the people actually round about, but people coming from a distance.
§ *MR. ASQUITH
I am much obliged to the noble Lord for reminding me of the fact that there were only 10 miles of the road attacked, but what 10 miles? Within 10 miles of one another on that road there are two fortified posts held by British and Indian troops—the post of Malakand and the post of Chakdara—and it was on those two posts that the tribes concentrated their attack. What, then, becomes of the consent of the tribes? With regard to the statement of the noble Lord that the people who attacked the forts came from a distance, what again does Major Deane say on the 8th August, 1897—the men who penetrated into the commissariat and sapper lines, and whose bodies were found the next morning, were most of them identified by Sepoys and others as men well known in the camp, who had formerly supplied wood, grass, and milk.It is quite obvious that this attack was joined in by the people who were immediately around the camp. Here is what Major Deane says further:I regard the outbreak as having been due to steady and combined working.It was not a sudden outburst of any unexpected storm of fanaticism imported by a mad mullah from a distance. That is not the view of Major Deane; that is a view confined to the Secretary of State. "It has been going on," says Major Deane, "since this line was occupied. It is the outbreak which was first started and intended in June, 1895," the very time when the question of making this road was first mooted. He says again in his dispatch of the 5th August—This rising has been intended ever since we occupied this line, and it was intended on the occasion of the last reliefs.Now, I ask you how, in face of these statements, is it the fact that there 659 ever was full, free, and genuine assent upon the part of the inhabitants of this valley to the making and maintaining of the road? or, as the noble Lord the Secretary of State argued last night, that the explanation of the terrible events which took place at the end of July and August of last summer is to be found in an inexplicable importation of fanaticism from outside, when your own officer tells you they have been working and preparing during the whole time? Before I close as regards this, let me point out what Major Deane says as to the future. He says—It is useless any longer to rely on the good faith of these subsidised levies, or on the goodwill of their neighbours in the valley. On the contrary, the levies should be replaced as far as possible by men from our own territory, though whether they will eventually be reliable it is hard to say.What does that mean? That means, if you are going to hold this valley for the future you must give up all idea of relying upon Native co-operation and support; you must bring men from your own territory—that is, British Indian territory—be they British or Native soldiers, and you must do what my right hon. Friend remembers it was predicted to us from the first you would be obliged inevitably to do—you must occupy the whole of this valley from one end to the other. How is that to be distinguished from annexation? And let me ask, how is that to be reconciled with a solemn assurance, given in the name of Her Majesty's Viceroy, that the Government of India had no intention of permanently occupying any territories through which Umra's misconduct allowed our forces to pass, and of interfering with the independence of the tribes? I will labour this matter no further. I think I have placed clearly before the House, and from materials drawn from the Blue Book, the actual history of these transactions. I should like, before I sit down, to ask one or two questions about the future of Chitral, or rather, of the Swat Valley. In the first place we should like to know how many troops are there now? In the next place I should like to know, supposing Major Deane's recommendations are carried out, and you dispense—as it 660 is obviously necessary you should dispense if you are going to remain there—with these Native levies, how many troops will have to be brought into the valley to take the place of the levies for whom they are to be substituted? I should like to know how many more forts it will be necessary to construct in the Swat Valley, because I observe Major Deane and some of the officers concerned, even before these disturbances broke out, agreed that the distances between the forts were too great. There is a still further question behind this:—How are you going to justify this strain upon the resources of India, which the internment in this valley of so large a number of British and Indian troops will cause, for no conceivable object under heaven, except a stubborn determination never to turn your back upon the place in which, for good or bad reasons, you once set your foot? One other point—the only one with which I will trouble you before I sit down. Last night the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India alluded to a speech which I made in which I spoke of these inhabitants of the Swat Valley as independent tribes, and in which I said you had no more right to drive a fortified road through their territory than if it was the Republic of France. Well, I adhere to that statement in every particular. What is the noble Lord's answer? I don't want to go into this somewhat barren controversy between the two Front Benches, which is wearying to this House and more wearying to the public outside. I do not feel disposed to waste time by recriminations. I wish to deal merely with the noble Lord's statement made by him last night, that every one of what he called the four cardinal points in the Forward policy were due to the initiation of the Liberal Government—namely, Lord Ripon's declaration to the Ameer in 1881, the two agreements with Russia, and finally the Durand Agreement of 1893. It is quite true that every one of these agreements was made under the authority of a Liberal Government. I am not going into the merits or demerits of the agreements, but are regards Russia and the 661 Durand Agreement, so far from being agreements in prosecution of a Forward policy, they were conceived with exactly the opposite intention. Why did we go in for this delimitation, first of all of frontiers, and then of spheres of influence? It was in order that this turbulent belt of tribal territory might be removed from what had been, up to that time, disturbing elements and irritating causes which constantly led to outrage and disorder, and which constantly called for British interference. Although I do not deny for a moment that the Durand Agreement, carried out as it has been by a visible and physical demarcation by posts and mile-stones, may have appeared not unnaturally to some of these frontier tribes to have been an assertion on our part of something like sovereignty over them, yet that circumstance, be it remembered, made it all the more necessary and expedient for us not to indulge in dangerous adventures like that of Chitral. But I entirely deny what appeared to be assumed in the argument of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, that the Durand Agreement was anything in the nature of an assumption of sovereign responsibility. The Durand Agreement is a negative agreement. A sphere of influence is a negative conception—purely negative. What does it mean? It means this: that by contract between two Powers—which we will call A and B—A agrees to abstain from interference with a definite area, and B agrees to do the same as to a corresponding area. But that cannot affect the other Powers and nations of the world and à fortiori it cannot affect the Natives who are in occupation of the two spheres. They are not parties to the Agreement. They have never surrendered their independence to us. Because we go behind the back of a number of frontier tribes, making agreements with the Ameer that he shall not go into one place and beyond another, to say that that affects their status is laying down a doctrine equally repugnant to international law, public justice, and common-sense. Now, Sir, I entirely demur to the noble Lord's proposition that these tribes have ceased to be independent in 662 the only rational and relevant sense of that term. I ask the House to assert, not merely the academic proposition with which this Amendment concludes—and to which, subject, at any rate, to some verbal criticisms, we may be able to get the assent of the majority of the Gentlemen opposite—but to assert that, finding yourselves, as you do, confronted with war, and the not remote prospect of future disturbance, that the occupation of Chitral, and the maintenance of a fortified road from Peshawar to Chitral is a violation of sound policy, and deserves the condemnation of the Legislature of the country.
§ *THE UNDER SECRETARY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. GEORGE N. CURZON,) Lancashire, Southport
This Debate has hitherto proceeded, for the most part, upon two lines, an exchange of Party shots and recriminations between the two sides of the House, and, in a less degree, the discussion of the true principles of Frontier policy. To me, Sir, I confess that the interests of India seem to be so immeasurably superior to the victory of any party or the credit of any individual, that I regret very much that less time has not been spent upon the one and more time upon the other operation. If I make any allusion in my observations to questions of a Party aspect, it will only be in reference to those topics which were immediately raised by the speech to which we have just listened. Sir, it is quite true that, when in the course of the last Recess, the right hon. Gentleman brought a charge of "a gross breach of faith upon the part of the Indian Government," we had, I think, not unnaturally, thought that, the Indian Government being par excellence a personal Government, it was against Lord Elgin that that charge had been directed. But, Sir, after the frank and generous repudiation of that interpretation to which we have listened from the right hon. Gentleman, there is no one, I venture to say, on these benches who wishes to pursue that branch of the subject any further. But, Sir, may I point out that the matter does not rest there? In 663 acquitting the Viceroy of India, the right hon. Gentleman is attacking the Government. He admits that he does not desire to push the charge against Lord Elgin, but does he withdraw it against us? On the contrary, throughout the Recess he continued to repeat it with a crescendo of adjective and invective. He said at Kilmarnock—I do not make the Indian Government responsible, because it is the Government here that is responsible. The Indian Government, in response to orders from here, determined upon the permanent occupation of Chitral.Surely this argument is incorrect as a statement of fact, and unsound as an enunciation of principle. It is an inaccurate statement of fact, because it is not true that in response to orders from here the Indian Government made up their mind upon the continued occupation of Chitral. On the contrary, they arrived at that conclusion upon independent grounds, during the administration of the party opposite, a month and a half before we came into office, and they stated the grounds for that conclusion in an admirable dispatch dated the 8th May, 1895. That view on the part of the Indian Government was opposed by the late Government. It was confirmed by the present Government, and therefore it was upon their own initiative, and in response to no orders from home, that that view of the question was taken by the Viceroy's Government. Now, I come to the question of principle. Lord Elgin drew up the proclamation. He issued it, and he asked leave to conduct the negotiations with the tribes. Leave was given by the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, under whose Administration the negotiations were commenced, and they were concluded under Her Majesty's present Administration. Lord Elgin assumed full responsibility for the proclamation and for those negotiations. The Government endorsed and accepted his action, and therefore, of course, took their full share of the responsibility. But surely, to contend for a moment that the Viceroy is at liberty to make a proposal which, in itself, is a dishonouring one, and that the moment that proposal has been endorsed by the Government, which is his official superior, he is to be acquitted of all moral blame, is an 664 argument which is fatal to the responsibility of our public servants—an argument which ought to be repudiated, and which, I happen to know, in this case, is repudiated by Lord Elgin himself. It was in the exuberance of the early holiday that the two right hon. Gentlemen, who are sitting there together, went down to Scottish platforms, and first brought forward this charge of a breach of faith. That charge had a short and inglorious existence, and it finally perished in December in the chilling embrace of the late Secretary of State for War. This is what the right hon. Gentleman said at a place called Clydebank on the 15th December, 1897—With regard to the war on the Indian Frontier, no one made the imputation against the Government that there had been a departure from uprightness and truth, or that there had been anything like dishonesty.That is a gross breach of faith of the late Home Secretary.All that could be charged was that there had been inconsistency of action.Now, it is perfectly clear from this either that the right hon. Gentleman does not read the speeches of his colleagues, which I think is highly probable, or that he disagrees in toto with what they say. Whichever it be, I think it is clear that we can afford to drop the charge of a breach of faith, and leave it where it was left by the right hon. Gentleman himself. But, to my mind, I confess it has always been a much more important question than any charge against the Government whether the tribes themselves really regarded the action of the Government as a breach of faith. The late Home Secretary, in the course of his platform campaign, more than once asserted that they did. I do not know what special means he may enjoy of ascertaining their views. I have made a most careful examination of all the evidence, and I believe I am correct in saying—my noble Friend will put me right if I am wrong—that from August, 1895, when the road to Chitral was made, to August, 1897, when the rebellion broke out, not a single complaint as regards breach of faith was ever brought before our political officers by any section of the tribes themselves. On the contrary, 665 they assented to the making of the road. They even supplied levies to guard it, and when the rising took place the majority of those levies remained loyal to us. I think it very likely, and not unnatural, that there were fanatical spirits who resented the intrusion of British influence and power into the country at all. But that even amongst those spirits there were any that made the charge that our presence in their country was a breach of faith, has not, I believe, been established. Moreover, I could not help thinking, when the right hon. Gentleman was pouring the cataract of his invective upon this bench, that it is rather a far-fetched contention that the hostility of the tribes is to be directed solely against the present Government, whose transactions with them have been of a peaceful and non-provocative character for the last two years, and that no part of it is to be assigned to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who was the first man to force his way through territories as independent, as he himself has told us, as Switzerland, who killed some 2,000 people in the course of that operation, and whom, I believe, if we could consult them, the tribes themselves by no means look upon as an angel in disguise. I have never quite understood why a Liberal Government is to be at liberty to drive a road through a free and independent country and to slaughter the inhabitants who resist, while a Conservative Government is not to be allowed to maintain that road when once it is made. Of the two, I believe the tribes would much prefer our whips to the scorpions of the right hon. Gentleman. Now, may I turn to a much more important point—the policy of remaining at all in Chitral, which is directly challenged by the Amendment before the House. Now, although it may not have been, and was not, a dishonourable thing to remain, it may yet have been an unwise thing. That is the opinion of many eminent men whose names have been cited in this Debate, and of almost every Gentleman opposite. To some extent, of course, this is an academic question, It is what the French call a chose jugée. Twice or three times has the House of Commons discussed and voted upon this question already, but I do not think we 666 on these benches need adopt the French attitude towards choses jugées, and inasmuch as this Question has been resurrected, as it were, by hon. Members opposite, I can see no reason why we should not meet them on that point. It is a Question in which I personally take a great interest. I do not contend for a moment that the fact of having been in Chitral gives me any right to express an opinion on the matter; but meeting, as I did, during the time I was out there, almost all the officers, military and civil, without exception, who have borne any part in our transactions with the Chitralis from 1885—when Sir William Lockhart was first sent there by the Party opposite, down to the present time—I do feel some confidence in the views I brought away from Chitral in October, 1894, because they are the views of every man, civil, or military, without, I believe, a single exception, who has ever set foot in that country. Now, I desire to say nothing in disparagement, it would be impertinent in me to do so, of the great military and civil names that were cited yesterday, but I am compelled to put the Question again, that I have put before, and to which no answer has been given. Is there a single man amid all those distinguished names who has ever been to Chitral or within 100 miles of that place? Now what were the reasons for the unanimity with which the Government came to the conclusion not to evacuate Chitral? The right hon. Gentleman said there was no conceivable object under heaven for our remaining there. There was one ground for our remaining there, which has already been stated by my noble Friend, and that was the ground of moral obligation arising from the fact that many of these people, including the Mehtar himself, whom we had assisted to place upon the throne, were dependent upon us, and that if we had evacuated Chitral we should have been guilty of the incredible baseness of handing over those persons who had taken our side, to suffer, and very likely to perish, at the hands of their enemies. If it was a breach of faith to the tribes along the route for us to stay, it would have been a much greater breach of faith to the Chitralis themselves to go. [Sir H. H. FOWLER dissented.] There were many Chitralis who stood side by side with us most loyally during 667 that time. There was a party of Chitralis, including several chieftains and the Mehtar, who all along the northern line of advance by which Colonel Kelly inarched, assisted us from point to point, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, I am not making a mere retort to him, but I am asserting upon absolutely undeniable authority that our retreat from Chitral must have been followed by the suffering, and even by the death, of many of these people. Then there were a number of considerations, half political and half strategical, which decided the Government to remain, but about which very little has been said in this Debate. There was a remark made in one of the speeches of the late Secretary of State for India to the effect that the natural boundary of India is provided by the stupendous range of mountains called the Hindoo Khoosh. I do not deny that proposition, and I agree that it is a barrier that no sane man would go beyond. But if you have a wall round your house, and if there is one point at which, owing to the conditions of the ground, that wall can easily be pierced or broken, and if the occupant or defender of the house were to show no desire to defend that particular point, no one, I think, would call him a strategist, and few people would call him sane. And yet, Sir, that was exactly the position as regards Chitral. In this great range of mountains of which I am speaking there are two passes—the only two easy passes in the entire range—one at a distance of 40 miles and the other at a distance of 130 miles from the fort of Chitral; while from Chitral itself there are two comparatively easy routes—not, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, as he seems to think, of Alpine altitude, because the highest of them is only 7,000 feet, one of which conducts into the heart of Afghanistan, which we have pledged ourselves to defend, and the other into British India. Well, Sir, it is contended as against this that no invading force would be foolish enough to run into such a death-trap; but it was not found to be a death-trap by the army of Sir Robert Low and General Gatacre marching up from the south, and, if that be so, why should it be a death-trap to an army that is marching down from the north? But I frankly admit that it is not the entry of an 668 army—because, after all, such a force could necessarily only be small—that was to be feared. It was the establishment of a hostile influence in the State of Chitral, which could only have had a demoralising effect upon the entire Frontier. The argument of the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken in respect to that is as follows: Oh, he says, all these dangers would have been obviated by the agreement that his Government concluded with Russia with reference to the Pamirs in 1895. I answer, with all respect, that they would not. I do not, of course, desire to make the slightest charge or to imply the faintest suspicion against the bonä fides of the Russian Government. I do not doubt that they would loyally observe the obligations into which they have entered upon that Frontier, just as they have done with reference to Sir West Ridgway's Frontier upon the north-west of Afghanistan, but I do say that circumstances on the spot would have proved too strong to enable them to carry out their intention. You cannot always be certain of your Frontier officers, either Russian or British. Already we have had two occasions upon which Russian officers have crossed the Frontier, and in one case made a secret Treaty with a chief under British protection. The House also cannot forget the fact that although Lord Granville concluded in 1873 a formal agreement with Russia, by which the Northern boundary of Afghanistan was fixed, and under which she undertook that that country should be for ever considered outside the sphere or her influence or action; yet, at the same time, when events entered upon a troubled phase in Europe, that agreement did not prevent a Russian Embassy from being sent to Cabul and a secret Treaty being concluded with the Ameer, and a secret correspondence taking place, which was found by Lord Roberts in the Bala Hissar. I hold, therefore, that with whatever loyalty Russia might desire, and does desire, to keep her engagements regarding this Frontier, it would have been almost impossible for her to do so if we had left a gap upon our side. If you agree upon a boundary with a great Power, one party cannot run away from its side; both parties must occupy, or must at any rate exert their influence up to, 669 the limit of their boundary. Russia has done so on her part. She has planted her soldiers right up to the waters of the Oxus, and we are equally bound to do the same. Believe me, Sir, that in those wild regions nature, as elsewhere, abhors a vacuum. These petty States, of which Chitral is one, are so small that they cannot stand by themselves. Chitral is about the size of, or rather is smaller than, the Principality of Wales, and it has a population not much larger than that of a single English constituency. It has always hung upon the skirts of Afghanistan, Badakshan, or Cashmere, and if we had left it alone it must either have fallen under the control of Afghanistan, which, I believe, the right hon. Gentleman opposite would deprecate as much as we do; or it must have fallen under the control of Russia, which, I believe, is desired by neither party in this country. Therefore, even though no enemy had ever entered into Chitral, yet, if we had been called upon at any time to discharge our obligations, or to subdue any movement upon the Frontier, we might have found the door of India, I do not say open to an enemy, but slammed in our own face. For these reasons, I hold that the decision of the present Government to remain in Chitral was not only a statesmanlike, but an indispensable decision. I am a little surprised at one charge brought against us in this connection during this debate. The right hon. Gentleman has taunted us with having reversed the unanimous decision of the late Government. I do not know why they are so proud of their unanimity. Perhaps because it was so very rare. The right hon. Gentleman talked yesterday about the Viceroy's Council as the Cabinet of India, but he did not go on to remind us that his Cabinet had reversed the unanimous decision of the Cabinet of India. What, then, is the situation? On the one side you have a unanimous Cabinet in India upset by a unanimous Cabinet in England; on the other side you have a unanimous Cabinet in India sustained and supported by a unanimous Cabinet in England. I submit to any person that as regards weight of authority there can be no dispute as to which of these is the stronger position. Now, Sir, I pass to another point, which has formed the 670 substance of a good many of the speeches to which we have listened. The theory which underlay the whole argument of the mover of this Amendment was that all these unhappy risings are due to our original policy in Chitral. That was his assumption. I listened very carefully to his speech, but I did not hear him advance any proof whatever in support of it—and, indeed, it is disproved by the whole evidence of the Blue Book—and with the best intention to follow his argument, I could not help feeling that he really had not found time to read a page of the volumes of the Blue Book upon this subject. And yet from the position and talents of the hon. and learned Member I should have expected him to adduce some evidence of a connection between the two. Now, Sir, there are only two places in the Blue Book where there is any reference to Swat and Chitral; no, there are three places. The first is the case where the Adda Mullah, in a letter to the Afridis and Orakzais, stated his own grievances, and invited them to join him. He wrote that—the Kafirs had now reached the countries of Bajaur and Swat.That is in Vol. II., page 39a. Then in Vol. II., page 169, a section of the Afridis, who were evidently very ignorant people, complained—that the British had seized upon the country of Swat"—which was untrue—and had forced their laws and customs upon the Mussulmans"—which was still more untrue.
The third case is in Vol. II., page 64, where there is a letter from the Mian Gul, of the ruling family of Swat, accusing the Government of India of violating their proclamation. My noble Friend authorises me to state that the Mian Gul, having been confronted with the letter, has said it was a forgery, and that it was written in a character and language not employed in his country. Well, dismissing that, the other two references are the only two references to Swat in the whole of these two Blue Books, while there is not a single reference to Chitral. The fact is, and nobody who knows anything of the tribes will deny it, that the 671 Afridis and Orakzais care nothing whatever for, and know very little of, the people of Swat. There is next to no communication between the two, and if those tribesmen could hear these debates, I believe they would have an even worse idea of our intelligence than they already have in a few unfortunate cases of our arms. There is no doubt that the Afridis and Orakzais have their grievances. Those grievances may or may not be genuine; but over and over again in the Blue Book you have a statement of their real nature, made by the tribes themselves to the Ameer, and repeated by him to us, and I am permitted by my noble Friend to say that even since the Blue Books were published a further statement has arrived from the Ameer, in which he recounts a list of twelve grievances of the Afridis. Now, Sir, all those grievances, are local grievances, such as the distribution of subsidies, the increase of the salt duty, the restitution of fugitive women, and so on, and there is no mention in any one of them either of the Swat road or of Chitral.
§ *MR. CURZON
Yes, I have the passage, and had marked it. It is a statement of the grievances of the Afridis. But there is nothing whatever about Swat, there is nothing whatever about Chitral, there is no allusion to the Chitral road.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Pardon me. Look at the middle of the next page. There you will see he refers, first, to Malakand and Chakdara, and then, especially to the making of the roads. That is a few lines from the bottom of the paragraph.
§ *MR. CURZON
Really, I think my right hon. Friend must be mistaken, because if he will look at the passage to which he has referred he will see that it is an allusion to a letter from the Viceroy, not to a statement of the grievances of the tribes.Your Excellency has kindly informed me that the disturbances which have broken out on the frontiers of India have been wholly unprovoked; that a force of troops was de- 672 tailed to punish the tribesmen concerned in the attack upon Malakand and Chakdara; that the force visited the upper Swat valley, and received the submission of the tribesmen there.The Ameer is quoting the letter of the Viceroy, he is not quoting any statement of the tribes.
§ *MR. CURZON
I do not know whether my answer is adequate or not, but it appears to me to cover the ground. Now, Sir, may I, with the permission of the House, advance to the larger questions of Frontier policy and of the responsibility of the two Parties in the State. We have heard in this debate a good deal of the Lawrence policy. I agree with the Mover of the Amendment that it was a policy based on righteous principles, and expressed in admirable formulas. It was a policy that was well adapted to the needs of its day. But hon. Gentlemen opposite are mistaken if they hold that it is equally applicable now. In the course of the Recess rhetoric, the Leader of the Opposition spoke as follows; he spoke of—the old and sound opinion of Lord Lawrence, that on the frontiers of India we should stand behind the mountains, and not embroil ourselves with the hostile tribes by whom those mountains are tenanted.That is no doubt an excellent phrase for a speech, but it does not represent the facts. The Lawrence policy is really dead, and the death-blow to it has been dealt by both Parties in this House, and notably by those who sit on that Bench. We are told that we ought to "stand behind the mountains." But Mr. Gladstone was the first to take us beyond the mountains. We are told that we ought not to entangle ourselves with the tribes. Mr. Gladstone was the first to make engagements with the tribes. Let me prove what I say. The late Secretary of State, last night, spoke in terms of vehement denunciation of the policy of the last Afghan war, and he, therefore, will agree with me when I say that there never was any Government that came into power in this country with a more firm intention to reverse, if that were pos- 673 sible, the policy of its predecessor than Mr. Gladstone's Government in 1880. The Afghan war, with its mingled record of disaster and success, was believed to be one of the reasons for winch Lord Beaconsfield had been defeated, and it was the open and avowed desire of Mr. Gladstone in taking office, so far as possible, to reverse his Frontier policy. Now, how did he act, and how far did he get? The single step that Mr. Gladstone was able to take in the direction of retreat was the evacuation of Kandahar, a fortress which is 70 miles outside the Frontier of India, in another and independent country, and which had only been occupied as one of the incidents of the campaign. But, Sir, no further did he, or could he get. Circumstances were too powerful for him. With every desire to follow in the footsteps of Lord Lawrence, he found himself treading in the footsteps of Lord Lytton. But he did more than not retreat, for he even went forward. Between the years 1880 and 1885 his Government took over Quetta—first on a perpetual quit-rent, and then in full sovereignty; they relaid the rails of the Hurnai railroad to Quetta, which they had foolishly torn up a few years before, and they commenced the Bolan railway. They made the arrangements with the Afridis, under which the Khyber Pass has since remained open, and, in doing so, they instructed the Indian Government "to establish political influence over the Afridis." They authorised Lord Ripon to give assurances to the Ameer of Afghanistan that, if he followed our advice, we would defend his territories from any unprovoked aggression. They nearly went to war with Russia over a place named Psujdeh, which was 600 miles beyond the Frontiers of India. They finally demarcated the external Frontier of Afghanistan by a solemn agreement with Russia—an agreement so solemn that it is conceded on all sides that its infringement would constitute a casus belli. Thus, along the whole line of Frontier, Mr. Gladstone's Government adopted a line of policy which, whether it was good or bad—and in my humble opinion it was good—was, at any rate, not the Lawrence policy, and they committed us by that policy to obligations of honour and of good faith by which every subsequent Government has been held, and which no future Government, 674 upon that Bench or this, will ever repudiate. That, I take it, is what Lord Kimberley meant when he said the other day:The whole circumstances of the case have been largely changed in late years. We have deliberately adopted a more forward policy, and our Liberal Government was responsible for it.Mr. Speaker, there are two other reasons why Lord Lawrence's policy can never be revised. The first of these is the great change in the external position that is due to the systematic, and, I think, also the legitimate advance of Russia. When Lord Lawrence wrote his famous memorandum in 1868, Russia had only just subdued the Caucasus; she had only just taken Tashkent, and established her administration in Turkestan. She had not yet conquered Bokhara, or Samarcand, or Kokand. Her soldiers had not crossed the Caspian, or fought the Turkomans, or seen the walls of Merv. Her Frontiers were not within hundreds of miles of the Pamirs. Contrast her position now. From the Caspian a Russian railway runs for a distance of 900 miles to Samarkand, and is now being linked up to Tashkent, from whence a connection is contemplated with Orenburg. From a point on this railroad near to Merv another line is being pushed forward up the valley of the Murghab to the Afghan Frontier, which we are pledged to defend, where its terminus will be within 80 miles of Herat. The Turkomans are now the subjects of Russia. Bokhara is her vassal. She has acquired, by agreement with the late Government, almost the whole of the Pamirs—her flag is flying on the banks of the Oxus. Her frontiers are not thousands of miles away, but are contiguous to those of Afghanistan, which we are bound to defend as if they were the frontiers of Great Britain, for over 1,000 miles from Zulfikar on the Persian border to the Little Pamir. Under these circumstances it is vain and childish to say that the formulas which prevailed thirty years ago are adequate to the new situation. Lord Lawrence's policy was designed to protect India from a danger which was at that time separated from it by many thousands of miles. It is not equally suited to a position where the 675 Cossacks are at your gates. Then there is another reason why Lord Lawrence's policy can never be revived, and that is the effect that would be produced in India itself. It is easy for the right hon. Gentleman opposite to speak of our sitting down on the banks of the Indus, with the river flowing before us, and the passes lying beyond, down which the enemy is to march to his destruction. But what Government will dare to try it? What Government will guarantee the peaceful acquiescence of India behind in such a situation? Just consider what it would mean. If the Lawrence policy were carried out to its logical conclusion it would mean that we should at once blow up the tunnel we have constructed through the Khojak, tear up the railway to Quetta, and pull down its fortifications, and give up the whole lifework of Sir Robert Sandeman. It would also involve our retiring from Kohat and the Khyber, and even from Peshawar. It would mean the tearing up of all our Treaties with successive Ameers of Afghanistan from the time of Sir John Lawrence to the present day. If we were to adopt that policy, which I have seen recommended in print, all I can say is that our faces would be blackened before all Asia and all India. The native princes of India, whom we guarantee, the Sikhs and Gurkhas, and others whom we attract to our ranks, the peaceful millions of India, who pursue their silent industry in reliance on the protection we assure them, would all turn from us, if they did not even turn upon us, in contempt for our cowardice; and we should never have an opportunity of testing this wonderful brand-new policy of defending India from external danger, because, before the attack had ever been delivered, we should have lost it from within. The situation was expressed in a single sentence by the first Governor-General of India, Warren Hastings, when he said, "To stand still in India is danger; to recede is ruin." I now turn to the policy that ought to be adopted towards the tribes. I am entirely in sympathy with the Mover of the Amendment when he speaks about respecting the independence of the tribes and avoiding the occupation of their territory. That is a broad principle which we all accept. There is no one here, on either side of the House, who would wish to 676 destroy the independence or annex the territory of any of those tribes. I will go further, and say we do not desire to interfere with their customs or prejudices or religion, or even with their internal administration. But we are at once confronted with the question: "Can we avoid them altogether?" No, Sir, we cannot; and that for several reasons. However anxious you may be to let them alone, they will not let you alone. Many of these tribes are men of wild and lawless character, devoted to predatory habits, and they insist on raiding your territory, on sweeping off the flocks and herds of the people under your protection, on carrying off women and pillaging caravans, or on pursuing the blood-feuds which are an immemorial tradition of their organisation. There was a quotation made yesterday by the late Secretary of State for India which, I think, clearly shows to the House what these tribes are in the habit of doing. It is on page 2, Vol. I., of the Blue Book. Between January and June, 1894, before the Forward policy had been adopted in Waziristan, no fewer than 27 persons had been killed and as many more wounded by raiders of one tribe alone. If, then, you cannot leave these tribes alone, as you never have been able to do, what is the policy you ought to adopt? I have been surprised not to hear a little more about what is called the policy of punitive expeditions, the policy of retaliation and retreat. When these outrages take place an expedition is organised as soon as possible; it is sent across the Frontier to burn a certain number of villages and towers, and to destroy a certain number of crops; it creates a trail of misery as it advances, and it then retreats, leaving behind it the smouldering embers of resentment and revenge, and passes again into British territory. That, I venture to say, is not in most cases a successful policy. What are its faults? In the first place, the blow is often struck too late. In the second place, you do not always succeed in punishing the true culprits, and a good deal of suffering falls on the innocent. And, thirdly, by retiring you create an impression of weakness, and encourage a repetition of the same offence. Take the case of the numerous expeditions against the Wazi- 677 ris and the Black Mountain expeditions, of which there were two or three in the course of ten years. But there is another reason why we cannot severely leave these tribes alone. We are bound, in the first place, by obligations to the tribes themselves; and, secondly, by obligations to defend the strategical Frontier beyond. With regard to the tribes themselves, Mr. Gladstone was the first, I believe, to take the Turis of the Kuram Valley under our protection after the Afghan War. He concluded also arrangements with the Khyber Afridis. We have since, under Sir Robert Sandeman, made arrangements with the whole of the Beloochi tribes. We have made similar arrangements on the north, on the Chitral road, and with the whole of the tribes inhabiting the country, sometimes called Dardistan, in the neighbourhood of the Hindu Koosh. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are excessively and very properly sensitive on the point of honour. I ask, would they wish us to break the solemn under takings into which we have entered with all these tribes? In regard to our obligations beyond, I do not propose on the present occasion to discuss them, but they are obligations into which the Government of this country entered in 1880, which have been accepted ever since, and which can only be repudiated at the cost of honour. I can hardly say how often the Ameer of Afghanistan used to me at Kabul, when I was there, a striking phrase. "England and Afghanistan," he said, "are one house. One house should have one wall. Are your soldiers going to join mine in defence of that wall?" That shows the view entertained by the Ameer of Afghanistan of the nature of our obligations, and substantially represents the view which is, I think, also entertained in this country. If then, these obligations exist, and if this is their nature, it is clear that we may have, at some time or other, to advance to the external Frontier of which I have been speaking, or, at any rate, to take a forward, although less forward, position on the line of Cabul, Ghuni, and Kandahar. You must be, therefore, certain of the main passes into that country. But if you leave the tribes absolutely alone, as my honourable Friend 678 opposite would have you to do, you will have no such certainty, and you may find at the moment when you are called upon to repel an attack on the outer Frontier that you are engaged in hostilities on the inner one. We must, therefore, enter into some relations with the tribes. What form should those relations take? Surely it ought to be possible, and I am going to contend that my noble Friend has found it possible, to construct a formula to which all will agree. All will consent that those relations should involve the very minimum of interference with the lands and independence of the tribesmen. But three things are essential. We must have the means of communication by the main roads and passes. We must have control of the Gomul and the Khyber passes, the Chitral road, and the main passes over the Hindu Koosh to the north. Secondly, we must have control of the foreign relations of the tribes; that is to say, they must not be at liberty to side with our enemies. And, thirdly, we must have some assurance as to their good conduct, in return for which we are always ready to pay them handsome subsidies. In my judgment—and I am bound to say that I speak here for myself only—these relations can only be successfully maintained by entering into confidential relations with the tribes. We have heard a good deal of Sir Robert Sandeman in the course of these Debates. I had the advantage of the acquaintance and of a long correspondence with that eminent man, and I can say, having seen his policy at work on the spot, that it was not a policy of laissez faire; but, on the contrary, it was a policy of mingled courage and conciliation, and, above all, a policy of confidence, and of moving about and acquiring the friendship of the tribes. It is much discussed as to whether a system suited to the Beloochi tribes can equally be applied to other tribes whose organisation is different, who have not the same respect for their chiefs, and are ruled by councils in which everyone is supposed to be equal and most insurbordinate. Sir Robert Sandeman, at any rate, was of the opinion that the same system was equally applicable to Beloochis and Pathans. Indeed, he had himself tried it successfully with the Waziris of the Gomul Pass. It may 679 also be said that whatever be the rights or wrongs of that aspect of the question, Sir Robert Sandeman was one man in a generation, and that we shall get no one else to fill his place. There is truth in that, but it is not the whole truth. I believe that all along the Frontier we are capable of finding scores of men, perhaps not of the experience or age of Sir Robert Sandeman, but men capable of winning, or who have already won, the confidence and affection of the tribes, men who know their language, who are in sympathy with their customs, and who are often selected as arbitrators in their private disputes. I put my whole faith in the work of such men, and I believe that the security of our Frontier rests, not upon the number of battalions we place there, but upon the individual character of the men whom we choose. It is a question not of rifles and of cannon, but of character, and of all that character can do amid a community of free men. It has been too often assumed, and I have heard it assumed in this House, that our relations with all these tribes are a failure. I dispute that altogether. The Leader of the Opposition, the other day, spoke of the Kohat road, and said that it had never been made. It is true a metalled road has never been constructed, but the road through the pass—through which I and several of my hon. Friends have ridden—is a fair road, and has been kept open, with slight exceptions, due to tribal disturbances, ever since 1849 under agreement with the tribes. We are told now that the Swat tribes will never keep the Chitral road open, and that it is an insult to ask them to do so. But it has been done over and over agin in other parts of the country. During the Mutiny the Kohat Pass was never shut, and during the whole of the recent trouble and fighting with the Afridis our troops have marched through it from Peshawar to the front.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Will the right hon. Gentleman say that that was a road along which an army could march?
§ MR. CURZON
It was not only a road along which they could march, but along which our troops did march, and the main force of Sir William Lockhart only the other day advanced from Peshawar to attack the Afridis along this very pass. The same remained loyal to us in the recent uprising; and most of all has it been true of Hunza and Nagar. Although we fought and defeated those tribes, and insisted on making a road through their country in 1891, they twice since then have come forward and assisted British arms, at the capture of Chitas and in the relief of Chitral. I should like to add a word about the Hunza-Nagar men. The former, in particular, had been for years the scourge of the Hindoo Koosh. They were robbers and man-hunters on an aggravated scale. But in three years we have converted them into our loyal and attached feudatories. When Chitral was beleaguered, in 1895, the two chiefs came down of their own accord to Gilgit, with 500 of their men, and conducted the whole of the skirmishing in the Northern campaign. How has this been done? By leaving them alone? No. By annexing their country, and destroying their independence? Still less. It has been done by the ascendancy of individual character, by the tact and candour of young British officers, who have gone in and out among the tribes, lived with them, hunted with them, played polo with them, interested themselves in their affairs. If this has been done in the north, why cannot it be done elsewhere? I will stake all I possess that in less than ten years that will be the case on the Chitral road. Believe me, the sort of relationship I have been describing you do not establish by withdrawal. It is no doubt an amiable theory that if, after beating these people, you withdraw from their country, they will be better friends and closer neighbours ever after; but it is not so in practice. They despise you for your weakness, and they distrust you for your inability to protect them. You congratulate yourselves on having escaped a responsibility which may some day be dangerous. You will some day find that another explosion has broken out, and you will have to go back with fire and sword, to do your whole work over again. If, then, we are to be successful on 681 the Frontier, we must fall back on the principles which have been enunciated by my noble Friend the Secretary of State in the concluding words of his dispatch: We must, in the first place, select the lines of communications, which are to be kept open in the interest of the Empire. Secondly, we must enter into confidential relations with the tribes, to guard the roads, to give free passage to and fro upon them, and to safeguard the caravans. Thirdly, we must concentrate our forces in necessary spots, instead of diffusing them over a scattered area. And I should like to add to these a fourth point: we must carefully select our Frontier officers from among the men who know the language, are in sympathy with the people, and will go in and out among them. Now, there is only one concluding reason which I venture to submit to the House why we cannot afford to leave these tribes alone, but must make friends with them. We want them to wear our uniform, and to stand in the front line of defence in the future. The native sources of the Indian Army are not as prolific as they once were. We want them to be replenished from other springs. We have already several thousand Pathans in our ranks. These men, when they have taken our rupees and eaten our salt, are for the most part loyal to us, even when we are fighting their own people; but we shall never get them to be loyal to us and to join our ranks if we show complete indifference to them. They will only join us if they realise our power, and see that we are able to beat them when they attack us, competent to protect them when they are loyal, and capable of discharging our Imperial obligations, with which they are just as well acquainted as we are ourselves. Sir, I think that the problem of welding these warlike and turbulent elements into a homogeneous Frontier force in the future is as noble a task as can be devolved upon the shoulders of any statesman. And if through the sacrifice and sufferings of the recent war, and even through the clash of discordant opinion in this House, we can catch sight of the true principles by which that result may be secured, I believe that all the blood of our heroes will not have been poured out in vain.
§ *SIR JOSEPH F. LEESE (Lancashire, Accrington)
Sir, I have not the advantage which the right hon. Gentleman possesses of having gone over this country, and of having a personal acquaintance with it and the people on the Frontier of India. And, indeed, I must say that I think he has been modest in not claiming for himself the full advantage which his intimate knowledge of these countries would have given him a title to. If, therefore, I rise, Sir, as an opponent, and as one who takes a different view from that of the right hon. Gentleman, I must con gratulate him upon the great know ledge of the Frontier question which he has displayed in his speech. But his great knowledge of the North-West Frontier of India is perhaps a disadvantage, for it has led the right hon. Gentle man to a discussion of questions and details to-day which seem to be far away from the real issues which are now before this House, and far away from those issues which are interesting the people of this country, and upon which the people, in their social meetings at clubs and other places, are now asking for answers. Sir, I venture to say that there have been in this Debate times when important issues have been lost sight of amidst a variety of details and statements as to the personal honour of certain Members of the two Front Benches. The questions which the people are asking amongst them selves are, first of all, who is responsible for the failure which is imputed to this war—this disastrous and fruit less war? They are asking, secondly, and they want to know, what are you going to do next?—not in the future, when circumstances may arise to cause you to adopt some new policy with regard to India and its Frontier—but what are you going to do now, immediately? And, thirdly, they are asking who is going to pay the bill—who is going to pay for the cost of this fearful war? And they are asking, again, whether now, even at this moment, you cannot make peace with the Frontier tribes and put an end to the suffering and misery which have resulted from this war? Mr. Speaker, I will address myself to the first of these questions, and I should like to trace the history of this war, bearing, as it does, on the answer to the question as to who is 683 responsible for the policy which has led to it. I am afraid I shall have to travel over again the road which has been trodden before, but I will do it as quickly as I can in order to give the answer which it appears to me is incontrovertible. Sir, it was in January, 1895, that the ruling chief of Chitral was murdered. Immediately upon that, negotiations were entered into between Chitral and the Indian Government in regard to his successor, for the heir was instrumental, apparently, in the death of his own brother. Negotiations were entered into for the purpose of deciding who was to be the ruler of Chitral. For that purpose Mr. Robertson, as he was then, was sent there. Immediately after his arrival, the country was invaded by a neighbouring chief, and the result was that Mr. Robertson with his escort had to take refuge in the fort and to defend himself there. An expedition was at once prepared to relieve him, and on the 1st March that expedition started from Peshawar. On the 5th March the Proclamation to the tribes through whose country this expedition was to go was issued. It has been read several times, and I will only briefly refer to its points. They were to the effect that unless our troops were attacked by the tribes they would be scrupulously let alone. The meaning of the Proclamation clearly was this. In it we told tribes to whom it was issued that we were going through their territory to relieve our besieged political agent in Chitral, but, having done that, we did not intend to stop. We did not intend to interfere with their independence, and if they did not attack us we should leave them alone. The expedition started, as everybody knows, and Mr. Robertson was brought safely back. The relief of Chitral was effected on the 19th April. Dates in this matter are all important On the 19th April, or perhaps the 20th, that is, immediately after the relief of Chitral was known, two telegrams were sent, one from the Viceroy of India to the Secretary of State in this country, and the other from the Secretary of State to the Viceroy. They were not answers to one another, as they crossed. The Secretary of State telegraphed to the Viceroy asking for suggestions as to our future policy, and the telegram from the Viceroy to the Secretary of State 684 suggested that Chitral should be maintained as a military station, and that a road should be made for the purpose of maintaining and protecting Chitral, providing the consent of the tribes could be obtained. There were a good many telegrams and dispatches exchanged in the next few weeks, but in the end it came to this: there were two policies, either of which the Government might adopt. One was the evacuation of Chitral—not only leaving it, but also the road which the expedition of relief had made, and thus clearing out altogether; and the other was to remain in Chitral, maintaining it as a military station, and making and completing and fortifying a road by which it was to be protected. These two policies were considered, and the Liberal Government had before it several considerations. One was a purely military consideration. Then there were political considerations, and finally there were undoubtedly for the Liberal Government at that moment certain questions of honour. Military considerations were put forward by Lord Roberts, a very great authority, whose name one would mention with great respect, and by others who thought evacuation would be a dangerous proceeding in view of possible invasion, or a foreign war. On the other hand, many eminent soldiers of great experience supported the contrary view. The Government, however, decided, right or wrong, on military grounds, that they would not adopt the policy of remaining in Chitral. There were political considerations. It was said that if we made this fort and this fortified road, we should establish a source of perpetual irritation amongst the tribes, and there would be constant tribal attacks and tribal wars, which could only lead to one result—namely, that we should in the end have to annex a country which, from a commercial and agricultural point of view was absolutely and totally valueless to us. Sir, the question of honour has also been raised, and as so much has been said upon it, I should like, with your permission, to say a word or two about it. On the 30th May, the question was raised by a telegram, which the House has had read to it by my right hon. Friend, to the Viceroy of India. I will not read it again, but after his explanation last night no one will deny that the telegram 685 did set forth the undoubted opinion of the Liberal Cabinet, that if the Liberal Government had on the 30th May, or on the 19th April, when Chitral was relieved, deliberately adopted the policy of retaining Chitral as a military station, and making a road for its protection, they would have been guilty of an act of grievous dishonour and breach of faith. If, however, the consent of the tribes could be obtained as suggested by the Viceroy, that would not be so, though the Liberal Government regarded such consent as practically valueless. In view of that telegram, sent to the Viceroy, it is evident that the Government decided, not only on military and political grounds, but also on the ground of honour, that they would have nothing to do with Chitral or making this road to Chitral. This determination was sent to the Viceroy of India on the 13th June. A few days after that the Liberal Government left office, as we all know, and the Conservatives came into power. With them came a change of policy, for the Conservative Government deliberately adopted a change of policy and reversed the policy of the Liberal Government; I do not think it is ingenuous in us to say that as you deliberately reversed the policy which we had decided to adopt you must bear whatever blame attaches to the disastrous failure of this war. In 1897 the road was made. The noble Lord has said he did not make this road, and that the Liberal Government made it when they sent their relief expedition. But if they did not make the road they completed it, and they built their forts upon it, and they had their soldiers there. To say that they did not make the road seems to me to be a quibble. Its construction brought about the state of things in which 70,000 of our men have been required for the purposes of a punitive expedition against the local tribes. What then was the cause of this war? Can anybody doubt the relations between cause and effect, seeing that they are so close? If there had been no road completed, and no fort built to protect the road, there would have been no fort to attack, and possibly no rising, and no war. In the mind of those who, perhaps, have no great technical experience in Frontier matters, but who are called upon to form an unbiassed and fair view of the matter, 686 the opinion must be that the war has been the direct result of the policy of making the road to Chitral, and of erecting the forts to maintain it. What is to come next? One good result—if no other—of this Debate has been the declaration by the noble Lord in the latter part of his speech last night, as well as the condemnation of the late Indian Secretary, of the spirit of militarism, a condemnation in which we all agree; and if nothing better comes of this Debate we shall, at any rate, be glad to see initiated a policy founded upon these sound principles. But what is to be done in the future? What are you going to do to put a stop to this war—to put a stop to the misery and suffering with which we are surrounded, and to the loss entailed on us by these fruitless expeditions? The First Lord of the Treasury, in one of his speeches, gave three reasons for the policy which has been adopted. He said, in the first place, we had made this road and fort for the purpose of protecting our Indian subjects against the predatory raids of these tribes; next, he said we had made the road for the purpose of protecting the tribes against external attack; and, thirdly, he said the object was the protection of the Ameer of Afghanistan. But how will the occupation of Chitral and the maintenance of a fortified road from Peshawar to Chitral protect our Indian subjects from the predatory attacks of these tribes? I say it is only maintaining, in the very centre of the territory of these tribes, an irritating cause of discontent and unrest. It is not very clear what our obligation is in regard to these tribes. Are we to protect them from external influences? All I can say is, if there were anything like an invasion by Russia, the result of our present policy will be that we shall find the tribesmen to be, not our allies, but the allies of our opponents. Are we to protect the Ameer of Afghanistan by this fortified road? Why, you might as well propose to protect Hull or Lowestoft, on the East Coast of England, by making a road from Liverpool to Exeter, for Chitral lies a long way east from the Afghan Frontier. Testing, then, the policy by the three reasons advanced by the right hon. Gentleman, I say they are insufficient to support it, and we are justified in being disappointed with the results, and in demanding a change. Are you going 687 to continue this war? We are told in the newspapers that they are preparing for another expedition in this terrible district. Do you expect to be any more successful than you have been before? If not, is there no ground—no obligation, on the ground of humanity alone—which will induce you to stop while there is yet time? You speak of the courage of our soldiers. I agree with you. I rejoice to think that the English and the Indian soldiers are still as brave as they have always been. I am proud of it. But there is another kind of courage, which is greater than mere physical courage, and it is for strong intelligent men to admit that they have made a mistake. There has been loss and suffering enough, and surely every effort should be made, not to provide for a recurrence of these things, but to prevent, or to begin an attempt to prevent in the next week or ten days, a repetition of these horrible losses. Who is to pay the bill? Tested in the ordinary way, one would say that those who gave the order should pay the bill. Who gave the order in this case? Let there be no mistake about it—it was the noble Lord himself. I do not put upon him any personal responsibility; he represents a Cabinet which is unanimous in supporting him; the Cabinet represents the Government, the Government represents the House of Commons, which is elected by the people of this country. Therefore, it is the mandate of the people of England that is conveyed to the people of India by the action of the noble Lord; if England gives the order, then England should pay. If that is not enough, try another test. Let those pay who get the great advantage. What is the advantage? Test that by the right hon. Gentleman's own reasons. If we do this to protect the people of India from predatory raids by making the road and building the forts, it will be the people of India who get the advantage; and they ought to pay. Similarly, if we are there to protect the tribes from external attack, it must be to their advantage; and the same applies to the case of the Ameer of Afghanistan. But neither the tribes nor the Ameer will pay, and the burden must fall upon England or India. India, however, is not in a financial condition to pay the cost at present. What are you going to do? Are 688 you going to increase the revenue by additional taxation? You cannot touch the land-tax, for your revenue from that is fixed for periods of 12 or 30 years. You cannot increase the receipts from opium without incurring great odium; you already have had trouble in regard to increasing the Salt Duties; you cannot interfere with your Excise Duties and your Customs; you have raised all your duties as far as you can strain them—unless, indeed, the noble Lord is going to try the one source left open to him, and put a duty on a certain Lancashire yarn, which, is not at present subject to duty. How are you going to pay this debt, if you cannot do it from revenue? The noble Lord says the war has cost four millions sterling.
§ *SIR J. LEESE
Yes. I admit that it is very difficult indeed to form an estimate of the cost of these wars. One remembers that when the last Afghan War was spoken of the estimated cost was five millions, and yet it was found, when the bill came to be presented, that it amounted to nearly £23,000,000; but in estimating the cost of this last Frontier war we have something to go upon. The Chitral expedition consisted of 15,000 men. It was out from March till September, when the last man forming it returned to India, and it cost £1,600,000. In the present operations we have an army of 70,000 men. It has been in the field about the same time, and if the cost is anything like in the same proportion to the size it will come to seven or eight millions. Can it be paid out of the revenues of India? This country clearly must go to the assistance of India, and must be free and lavish with that assistance. The money losses are bad enough, but what about the loss of life? Five hundred men have been killed in this war, and 1,400 have been wounded, while we do not know as yet how many deaths have happened from disease, due to the climate and the atmosphere of that cold, miserable country. We do not know what that bill is to be. Is it to be anything like the number of men placed hors de combat? Surely we have done enough. Representing, as I do, kindly-hearted and 689 generous Englishmen, I do ask that something should be done to prevent any addition to the losses we have sustained. Even if you are successful in your next expedition, do you expect it can be carried through except with very grave and serious loss? I appeal to the noble Lord, putting aside Party sentiment, whether it is not possible to prevent any more misery and suffering, any more waste of life and treasure, seeing how fruitless has been the expenditure of the past?
§ *SIR M. M. BHOWNAGGREE (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
said the hon. Member who spoke last seemed to argue that our troubles on the Frontier had some bearing upon the Lancashire yarn industry, and that, to his mind, represented the exact measure of relationship between the retention of the new Chitral road and the expedition against the hill tribes. In all the speeches he had heard in support of the Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member for the South Division of Leeds, there had been but a repetition of the arguments with which that Amendment was so eloquently supported by the Mover, the sole exception being the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean, which offered many sound and statesmanlike considerations to which he would refer later on. The Amendment before the House contained two propositions. The first referred, and took exception, to what was called the military occupation of Chitral as the origin of our present troubles on the Frontier; while in the second, it was laid down that the safety and prosperity of the Empire would be promoted by the recognition of the independence of the Frontier tribes and avoiding the occupation of their territory. He might at once state that with the latter part of the second proposition he was in perfect agreement. With regard to the rest of the Amendment he differed widely from hon. Gentlemen who had spoken on the other side. Those who advocated the policy which underlay the Amendment had to prove—first, that what they called the natural Frontier and bulwark of British India was the sufficient barrier they supposed it to be against a possible invasion; and, secondly, that the hill tribes were not only independent, and strong enough to maintain their independence, but capable of forming an efficient garri- 690 son on our side against a foreign attack. Those who argued that the mountain ranges in the North of India formed a barrier which no army could cross had not studied history to advantage. If they had, they would have found that that barrier had been crossed from time immemorial for both migratory and military purposes, and that in later times, Tamerlane, Baber, and Nadir Shah had led expeditions through its passes. The Eastward inarch of Russia, even in the last twenty years, had proved that these mountain ranges would present no impregnable obstacle to a foreign invader. Then, as to the tribes forming on our side in such an event a spontaneous garrison of defence, they had only to inquire what was the sort of independence they enjoyed, for he believed a false notion regarding it had led hon. Members to form an idea that the friendship and support of these tribes in a time of trouble would guarantee the safety of our Frontier. It seemed to be assumed that the "independence" of these hill clans was of the nature of the civilised homogeneous independence of the inhabitants of Switzerland, and that they were strong enough to maintain it unaided by any other Power. As a matter of fact, theirs was the independence of barbarians, and they were too weak and dispersed and divided to be able to exist without holding on to the skirts of a strong neighbouring Power. Their independence meant a lawless freedom to cut each other's throats and commit depredations on neighbouring territories. They brook no control, and are under no order or government. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for India had impressed this view on the House by quoting the testimony of distinguished men, and as it was most desirable that this fact should be borne in mind in order to arrive at a correct decision on the first issue, he would take the liberty of reading the opinion of another competent authority on the subject. This opinion was expressed, not in connection with the present controversy, but some years ago, in a learned article in the Times of November 15th, 1877, on the Frontier tribes. It was as follows—The Government of each tribe is a most complete democracy, which is split up into as many factions as there are families, and even 691 individuals. Each section of each tribe has its own quarrels, and supports its own chief, whose tenure of authority is of the most precarious nature—raised to power to-day, only to be deposed to-morrow. There is no people in the world more turbulent and less under control; the love of fighting, and plundering and disorder is stronger in them than all Eastern people; and, indeed, their lawless courage is almost their sole virtue. Honour and patriotism have no meaning for them; their avarice and cupidity are extreme; and for gold they will betray the most sacred engagements, sworn to on the Koran, and sealed by their own signet-ring. They submit only when they must, and with abject docility. They are perfidious, cruel, and treacherous, and are stained by indulgence in vices of unspeakable enormity.The Ameer of Afghanistan, in writing to the Viceroy in reference to the visit of some of these men to him, says—I told them that they were liars and scoundrels.Again—These men have acted in a foolish manner through their own ignorance, or at the instigation of the Mullahs.Such are the men on whose independence and friendship we are told by hon. Members opposite we might rely for security against a foreign foe! Now, coming to the argument based on the occupation of Chitral, he begged to point out that Chitral had for years been under the British sphere of influence and control. It had been a feudatory of Cashmere, which, as hon. Members knew, was a large feudatory State in our Indian Empire. The semi-barbarous condition of that part of the Frontier, admitted by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, made it incumbent on the government of India to exercise some control over it. Indeed, it was an obligation which could not be avoided. There was no new occupation there. There was already a road leading up to it through Gilgit, 500 miles in length, and rugged, and the new road constructed for the purpose of the expedition, and sanctioned by the late Government, was an easier approach to Chitral, and shorter, being only 170 miles long. It was unreasonable to contend that the retention of this road had caused any serious irritation among the rebellious tribes. The demarcation of the Durand Frontier line between the Ameer's sphere 692 and ours was, to some extent, answerable for that irritation. But there had been other contributory causes, not the least powerful of which was the abuse poured upon the Sultan of Turkey by statesmen of great eminence here. It was a painful subject to which to refer, but the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition had alluded to it, and had charged Lord Salisbury with being a stronger traducer of the Sultan than had been his own colleagues. That was scarcely reasonable. Lord Salisbury had doubtless uttered some words of warning when popular feeling with regard to the acts of some Turkish officials was excited throughout Europe, but these were like well-weighed words of admonition in a sermon, and bore no comparison with the foul abuse poured upon the Sultan by certain men of high and responsible position in this country. The Mahomedan papers of India had given expression to the indignation felt thereat by the Moslem communities throughout the world, and it is not unnatural to suppose that the tribesmen were angered and incited by it. Another powerful source of mischief was the way in which the Turkish victory over Greece had been misrepresented to these tribes by their Mullahs. To their minds it was not merely that a strong military power had prevailed over a weak one. It was represented to them that it was the triumph of Mahomedanism over Christianity, and thus their fanaticism was greatly aroused. If one began to cast about for remote causes at the bottom of the rising, then it might be quite plausibly said that the famous telegram of the one hundred Members of that House to the King of Greece had a more direct effect than had the retention of the road to Chitral in inciting the tribes. The House had heard with a sense of relief the disclaimer made that evening by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife of the accusation of breach of faith made by him during the Recess against Lord Elgin. When the noble Lord the Secretary for India referred to that charge, it was denied that the words "breach of faith" had been used. He would quote from one of the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman during the Recess to show 693 where those words were used. He is reported to have said—Can you wonder that when it was gradually brought home to the minds of the tribes concerned that there had been what they considered, and what I certainly for myself consider, this gross breach of faith on the part of the Indian Government, and that further, as had been predicted to us, and as the event has proved with the most perfect accuracy, they drew from the establishment of these positions the inference that their independence was threatened, and that annexation to India was with them only a question of time?He hoped the disclaimer made that evening would be widely published throughout India, for it was a serious thing that the people out there should any longer remain under the impression that statesmen of authority here ever thought that a man in the position of the Viceroy had deliberately broken faith. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Montrose Burghs had in some of his speeches to his constituents during the Recess with much warmth attacked the Frontier policy of the present Government. He had said—These are the five stages of the Forward Rake's Progress. First, you push on into territories where you have no business to be, and, in our case, where you had promised you would not go; secondly, your intrusion provokes resentment, and in these wild countries resentment means resistance; thirdly, you instantly cry out that the people are rebellious, and that their act is rebellion, this in spite of your own assurance that you had no intention of setting up a permanent sovereignty over them; fourthly, you send a force to stamp out the rebellion; and, fifthly, having spread bloodshed, confusion, and anarchy, you declare, with hands uplifted to the heavens, that moral reasons force you to stay, for if you were to leave this territory would be left in a condition which no civilised Power could contemplate with equanimity or with composure. These are the five stages of the Forward Rake's Progress. The present Secretary of State for India when defending this action in, I think, the year 1895—I had not then found shelter in Montrose, but I believe it was in 1895—this is what the Secretary of State for India said of these operations—'I believe we have now—after this reversal of our Policy—we have now arrived'—this was two years ago—at a settlement of our Indian Frontier and Frontier difficulties.As to what was thought of it by those who knew the conditions under which that policy had to be pursued in the present instance, it might be useful to quote what was said in reference to it by 694 the chairman of a public banquet held on the last St. Andrew's Day at Calcutta. This gentleman, who was also the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Legislative Council, spoke these words at a great representative Scotch gathering, at which the Viceroy was the principal guest—While we have instances of devotion and generosity such as these making for a better understanding between the rulers and the ruled, we have also forces from quarters from which one would expect other things working in the opposite direction. I will name only one instance. We have certain Members of Parliament who, under the guise of being friends to India, are constantly girding at the present administration of the country, while others try to catch votes for their party upon Indian questions. Why, for instance, should a politician like Mr. John Morley attempt, as he recently did, to make political capital out of the Indian Government's present difficulties. Not, I imagine, for love of the Afridi or Orakzái. The troubles of an Empire should not be made a party question. India should be ruled for India's good, not for party politics.The hon. and learned Mover of the Amendment has quoted certain opinions expressed by Sir Lepel Griffin in support of some of his arguments. I would like to give another quotation from the utterances of that gentleman with regard to the attack on the Government, which contained these words—It was merely drawing a red herring across the scent. The Radical attack was a mere Party manœuvre, as discreditable as it was ridiculous.The hon. and learned Gentleman had, in reference to a phrase used by the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, said, if your object is peace, there could be no control. His reply was there could be no peace without control. It had been demonstrated that the tribes were semi-barbarous and lawless, and the only condition of securing peace with them was to hold them under our influence and control. For the very security and peace of India itself it was necessary to subdue these tribes. Our obligations to the Ameer imposed on us the duty of keeping the tribes within our boundary line in order. These and other considerations made it quite apparent that under similar circumstances a Liberal Government would have done exactly what the present Government had done to check and punish the rising of the tribes. He repeated 695 respectfully his appreciation of the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean last evening, in which he had laid down broad and statesmanlike views with regard to the policy which should be followed in future. After that speech and the speeches of the Secretary of State for India and the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, which had been listened to with admiration from all sides of the House, he had hoped that the Amendment would be withdrawn. He was sorry to find, however, that they were to proceed to a Division. As usual in these cases, there will be a Party Division, and he deplored the mistaken notion it will convey to the people of India that the other side viewed with disapproval the action of the Government of India in respect of the present Frontier operations, and would have acted differently had they been in power. While he entirely approved of the policy on which Government had acted, he must confess he hesitated to give his vote in favour of it on one consideration, and one alone, namely, the heavy expense it would entail on the already overburdened finances of India. Some plan will have to be arrived at, some principle established, as to how the continual expense which the Frontier policy, pursued alike by Conservative and Liberal Governments, impose on the Indian Exchequer, should be shared by the Imperial Exchequer. That, however, was a question which this was not the time to enter upon at length. Perhaps the Report of the Royal Commission would furnish occasion for it, But there was an immediate duty to be performed. Neither the will nor the means was wanting on our part for the discharge of that duty. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had sounded the country, and the country had given its approval. He had said—If India had passed through a great calamity, and if she really wanted financial help, I am sure our pockets would be opened to her.He did not wish to enter into a discussion of the arguments by which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had more recently arrived at the conclusion that no financial help was found to be needed. 696 He based nothing at present on the consideration of claim or even of justice. He went a step further, and said that if a contribution was not needed to give material help, still for its deep moral importance at this juncture they should give India some substantial help. The patience and fortitude of the people in India were severely put to the test. More even than their bodily sufferings, their mental condition was one of extreme strain and anxiety. Nature had been unkind to them, and political firebrands had taken advantage of the recent crisis to misrepresent their misfortunes as the outcome of British rule. The Indian mind, docile to a degree, and unendowed with that intelligence which comes of Party warfare, is likely to put credence in these misrepresentations. There is danger of the unfortunate accusations of statesmen, who ought to have known better than to make them, being tortured by designing enemies of British rule to prove to the Native mind, out of the mouths of Englishmen themselves, that the English nation is not behaving fairly and squarely by India. At such a time, and in such circumstances, their reply should be prompt and unmistakable, and the best way of giving it was by a handsome contribution in aid of the finances of India. The people of India believe the English rule over them to be a beneficent rule, and he appealed to Her Majesty's Ministers to strengthen that belief by means of such a grant as he advocated, which would assure them that we meant to rule India not solely for our own gain, but largely for their benefit.
§ MR. HARWOOD (Bolton)
Mr. Speaker, Sir, I wish to intervene in this Debate because I desire to ask the House to look at this matter from a point of view which, I think, has not yet received sufficient attention. Before doing so, I wish to assure the hon. Member who has spoken last that we in this country are quite accustomed to criticise isolated acts of policy without being suspected of disloyalty to the whole Empire, and it is quite possible to think that the retention of Chitral is unwise without being accused of depreciating the glories of the Empire; and I hope the hon. Member will use some of that eloquence he undoubtedly possesses to 697 teach his countrymen that truth about our political methods. The other matter to which I wish to refer is that which the right hon. Member the Secretary of State for India has mentioned; but I want to allude to one point which, I think, may throw some light on this whole question. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India has mentioned that the Khyber Pass was a metal road, and he laid emphasis on the word "metal." But he did not call the attention of the House to the more important fact, in regard to the discussion which arose between him and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and that is, I think I am right in stating, that the road referred to was not in any sense a fortified road. The point—and here I am relating a matter of personal experience—is that this road to Chitral is a fortified road, and the question we are considering is whether that road and the occupation of Chitral have aroused such distrust in the tribes as has led to the operations we all regret. Sir, the road to Chitral is a fortified road, and the House has heard how fighting took place over 10 miles of it. Compare this with the state of affairs in the Khyber. The Khyber has been an open road, without interruption, for years. Is the Khyber a fortified road? When I happened to visit it a year ago I noticed that, although our men were in a very strong position, that position was not fortified. I called the attention of the officer to the fact, and asked the reason for the absence of fortifications. The officer told me—although he may, of course, be wrong—that it would provoke the tribes if these places were fortified. This keeping open of the Khyber unfortified suggests, therefore, that, with the fact of the Chitral road being fortified, may be found the causes which have led to our operations there. May it not suggest to the House that the point of the sore is not the fact of there being a road, whether made or not, but the fact of that road being fortified? Sir, I sometimes feel that, as a Moderate and a new Member of the House, that one's perspective becomes distorted, and sometimes I leave the House for a quiet stroll to get my perspective restored, and I ask: "What do the people think of the matters we are dis- 698 cussing in the House of Commons?" I want to ask the House to look for a moment at what I think is the general view of this matter, taken by the man in the street, the man who does not care much for either Party, but regards their quarrels very much as he might regard the quarrels of the Montagues and Capulets, and looks at them from an independent point of view, exercising only his rough common-sense. Sir, there is no doubt that the people of England, looking at the subject from that point of view, have taken a great interest in this war—a melancholy, but a great interest. We have had admirable reports, admirable illustrations, in our periodicals. The dramatic events of the campaign have touched the hearts of the people, and the bravery of our troops has aroused the strongest enthusiasm. But the people have another feeling than one of great interest in the matter. Mr. Speaker, Sir, the English people have a great admiration for foes who have fought them so bravely, and I think also they deeply regret that the forces of this country have had to be used against foemen who have fought for their freedom so bravely as these Indian tribesmen. And the people ask themselves: "What is the reason that we have had to fight these people? What is the reason we have been brought into this unhappy position?" They look at the matter from the point of view of the past, and from the point of view of the future. As to the past, I wish to say, with all respect, that it strikes me we have too much Front Bench thunderings—And Jura answers from her misty shroud, Back to the Alps, which call to her aloud.We seem to have a sort of practical Badmington game played across the table, and I am sorry to have to tell the occupants of the Front Benches on both sides that I think they over-estimate the value which the country puts upon their consistency. I question whether the people think who was Chief Secretary for India, or whether this person or that person went to Chitral. It is very interesting to themselves; it is part of the game we are accustomed to see played in this House, but the country is rather more concerned in considering whether 699 it was wise to do this or that, and whether it was wise to continue doing it. As a young Member of this House, I do not care two straws which side went to Chitral, or which side stays there. What I do care for, and what the country cares for, is the wisdom of going there, and the wisdom of staying there. I hope we may dismiss from consideration this question of Front Bench consistency. These are qualities which the people do not look for, and which they are not expecting. Therefore, we will dismiss this Front Bench stage thunder. I think we have had enough of it, and I will ask the House to consider the case which the Government have put forward. The noble Lord the Secretary of State made a speech which we all enjoyed very much, but it struck me as being rather like the effort of a singer, of course, an excellent singer, who could not catch his first note at the beginning. The early part of his speech, if he will allow me to say so, was pitched in an unusual, and I would say a somewhat unnecessarily, peppery tone. He spoke, it seemed to me, with quite unnecessary anger at this stage of the matter, and, after all, what are the facts and what have we to discuss? I will take the concluding part of the noble Lord's Speech. The first part of it was in the nature of that sort of aggressive attack which comes from those who have a consciousness of having done wrong. With the second part of the Speech, we are entirely in accord, and in gratitude for the second part I think we must forgive the first. The fact seems to be, if one may state generally the opinion of the country, and, as I think, the opinion of this House, apart from Party exigencies and demands, that the retention of Chitral has been a mistake. The reasons given for its retention I do not think will commend themselves to the common-sense of the country, and I think one or two of the reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will not apply any better. He said, and it had been said by others, that Chitral was a point of observation in regard to India and Afghanistan. And there was another point in his speech. He says that Chitral was being retained as a defence against the approach to India from the north, and I should 700 like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will tell this House whether a hostile force could best march that way. To use the argument of a point of observation shows a feeble case. Then the noble Lord said—We are obliged to remain there, because otherwise we shall be deserting our allies,and the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs went into a kind of Munchausen arithmetic as to how many of our troops might have been slain, and of course there might have been many thousands lost; but to argue that we ought not to have evacuated Chitral because it would have injured our friends and allies shows that we ought not to have gone there, and that we were there against the general feeling of the neighbourhood. If not, our friends could have defended themselves, and that contention shows that the general feeling of the country was against our presence. We had already, by going there, shown the power of our Army, and it was not necessary to remain there in order to prove how strong our Army was. Now I come to the question whether the retention of Chitral had anything to do with this military rising of the tribes. That is the only consideration which justifies us in bringing in the occupation of Chitral question now. I have heard so many different opinions on the subject that I am loth to dwell upon it, but the House will, I hope, pardon me for mentioning some of my experiences, which may throw some light upon the matter, and particularly upon the Afridi rising. I have so strongly in my view the idea of "Padgett, M.P.," that I hesitate to enter into my own experiences, but I went over that country about a year ago, under the guidance of a military officer and two native chiefs, one of whom was extremely well informed as to the condition of affairs, and whose judgment struck me very much. I asked him as to the cause of the Afridi rising, and he said, "We have always looked up to the English, because we have had an idea of their justice; but," he said, "we are uneasy now." His statement, I think, was very important, and I ask the attention of the House to it. I said to him, "Why?" "Because," he said, "you have shaken our confidence." No remark was made about the character of the tribes and the 701 country, but the expressions used by him and others meant that the people were in a state of unrest because we had shaken their confidence by our occupation of Chitral. But another point was pressed upon me by highly placed military authorities at different times—at mess, and so forth. They said they required 10,000 more troops in India, than they had now in order to hold India with safety. I was told again and again that the tribes in the hills were in a state of unrest, and I asked "Why?" The retention of Chitral was mentioned by those who defended the policy as a cause of the feeling of unrest amongst the tribes. That was six months before the war broke out, but on all hands one heard of this feeling of unrest, and that this feeling of unrest had one reason, and that was our retention of Chitral. Therefore, I think we must say there is something in the argument upon that point, but I now pass it by, and I should like to say a word or two upon something more important than the past, and that is the future. I believe that the people of this country are quite willing to admit that mistakes may have been made by both Governments. The late Government probably made mistakes, and that is, perhaps, why they are where they are; but I think we should be unwise if we haggled too much about those mistakes. We should rise rather to a higher position, and ask ourselves, as the people of this country ask themselves, what is to be the policy in the future—what is to be your course in the future, whereby you may, if possible, avoid these mistakes? That policy ought to be settled by the House of Commons as speaking for the country. We are asked to give too much weight to the opinions of experts. But I think we are old enough to know that expert evidence is not to be taken without great caution. I remember that it was once said that there were three kinds of liars—the ordinary liar, the extraordinary liar, and the expert witness; and, although that may be an exaggeration, I venture to say that this matter is one which the common sense of the House of Commons should settle in its own line, and should settle on broad lines. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had at the end of his 702 tongue a little slur upon the House of Commons, and somebody else has said that the influence and power of the House of Commons are in direct proportion to the distance from which it is regarded. When I was in Australia I saw a letter describing how two travellers had made a request to enter Afghanistan, and received a reply almost as unsatisfactory as the replies given by Ministers to questions in this House. The reply to these travellers ended by saying that they must not attempt to enter into that country except with a letter from the British Queen, or the "Noble House of Commons." The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs has given us a most interesting historical and geographical lecture, a great deal of which had not very much to do with the matter. We all agree upon one point, at any rate, and that is that India must be guarded. One of the charges levelled against these Benches was that our leaders, Mr. Gladstone and others, did not take steps to strengthen the Empire, but we all agree that the Empire must be guarded, and that in India such a boundary must be chosen which will be the best boundary to be defended. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs has given us his views, but we must appeal to facts. Nobody who knows India of late has suggested that the Indus should be the Frontier line. Anybody who knows India must have been struck with the peculiar geographical character of the country on the North-Western portion of our Empire, with its hills and craggy mountains. Those mountains are inhabited by tribes whose chief passion is life and liberty, and the right principle is to carry our boundary to the foot of those hills, and leave those warlike and liberty-loving tribes as much as possible in their old position. They would be our best defence in the event of a foreign foe attempting to attack them. So long as we are safeguarded against anything like treachery, surely it is far better to leave any foe wishing to attack us to pass over those mountains, and through those fierce warlike tribes, rather than to go over those mountains and so weaken our means of defence? If the House will pardon me, I will give a little illustration, which may afford some guidance in the matter. I heard 703 two boys threatening to fight in the street. They agreed to fight, and then one said to the other, "Come, and fight in our kitchen." I say we should let Russia come and fight in our kitchen, and we should not, by going out to meet her, weaken our line of defence. Let us agree upon some genuine line of policy. We have a great Empire; its glory and its resources touch the hearts of all Englishmen, and they are too valuable to us and too dear to risk on account of a Party wrangle. Let us have the nerve and manliness to rise to a broad conception of the situation. The noble Lord has spoken of repentance, and has used language about sack-cloth and ashes. Well, a mistake has been made in retaining Chitral, and in making a road and a military boundary. The First Lord of the Treasury, some time ago, made what I cannot help calling, a preposterous statement. He said that wherever the foot of a British soldier had trod there it must remain. We want repentance on that matter; the right hon. Gentleman should recall, those words, for they embody a principle which must involve very dangerous consequences As to the future, I think we are all agreed in the desire that, whichever Government may be in power, it shall not enter upon any more expeditions which are so weakening to the resources of India, which interfere with the freedom of those whose freedom we ought to respect, and which exhaust the defensive resources of the Empire.
§ COLONEL MILWARD (Warwick, Stratford-upon-Avon)
As bearing on this question, I wish to read an extract from a letter which I received from India a short time ago, as it refers to this Frontier question, and I am sure the statements in it are the sentiments of a great many people in India—It fills people out here with disgust for Party Government at home to see our Home statesmen degrading the Frontier Question to a plank of a Party platform, apart from their obvious want of knowledge of the essential conditions of the peoples and places they are trying to discuss.With reference to the first part of the letter—viz., that it has been treated as a Party question, in a, constitutional country the debating of this question is the only means of 704 arriving at a sound conclusion. A debate leads to many things; amongst others, that the country is able to form its opinion upon the subject. I regret very much that there have been so many recriminations on both sides with regard to this question. With regard to ourselves we make no accusation, but we acknowledge that there have been many wise and broad-minded Secretaries of State for India, and I rejoice that there has been no wiser or more statesmanlike or broader-minded Secretary of State than the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton. During his tenure of office he was certainly not afraid to assume responsibility where it had to be assumed. I say we rejoice that under his rule India has prospered, but we also ask that some good things should be said and thought of us too. We wish to do our duty towards the people of India, and we certainly wish to do no wrong, so far as India is concerned. We recognise the difficulty of our position, but we wish to do what shall be ultimately for the good of the people of India. Sir, I am happy to think that this question is now narrowed down to a very small issue. Nothing is in debate about the great North-West Frontier of India; what has been said is almost entirely with regard to the Chitral expedition, and with regard to the road to Chitral. As we know, there is no other possibility of our getting there except by a long circuitous route from Cashmir. Whether the Chitral route is the best route remains to be seen; but, at all events, I say the question before the House has very much dwindled down. I am extremely sorry that the military aspect of this question has been kept entirely out of this Debate. Sir, I need not say that you will not allow me to refer to it. It is not for me to say that there are a great many aspects as to the military part of the case which ought to be debated here. The expedition has not been fruitful of honour to the country, although fruitful in honour to the private soldier. I think none of us deny there are accusations bandied about of persons being put in command of Brigades there who have not even commanded a battalion abroad, and that has been the cause of a great many of the disasters 705 which have occurred. I know you will rule me out of order if I dwell on the military side of this question, but I think the question now is really one as to the future of our North - Western Frontier. I should not have troubled the House had it not been that I have one or two letters from a gentleman well known on the Frontier—Mr. Merk. He has been Acting Commissioner at Peshawar during a considerable part of these troubles, and his knowledge of the Frontier question is great. He has a command of the languages, almost equal to that of a native, of many of the Frontier tribes, and he has spent nearly the whole of his life on the Frontier. I will read the letter I refer to. This letter I received only yesterday, and I presume it will, therefore, be taken as a statement of the latest views of those who are upon the Frontier. He writes—The beginning of the end has come as regards the Afridi business, but I think you will find that they will not give in till April, when they see that there is a prospect of our return to Tirah. Mr. Curzon hits the right nail on the head. It was the fear that we meant to annex up to the Durand line that has brought about these troubles. It has come home to us that the occupation of this belt of independent territory is too big a job. We ought to concentrate our efforts at a few points, and leave the rest alone. Above all, we want a policy which will not lead to recurring Frontier war.There are two questions which arise out of that letter which seem to settle the question as to the Frontier policy. The first cause of the trouble—viz., the Durand demarcation, and the other question which, perhaps, is a more important question, as to our future, and on which Mr. W. Merk writes—It has come home to us that the occupation of this belt of independent territory is too big a job. We ought to concentrate our efforts at a few points, and leave the rest alone.If that be so, the question arises—where are the few points at which we ought to concentrate our efforts? Naturally, they are the passes which lead into Afghanistan. This country is bound in honour to fly to the protection of Afghanistan if she should be attacked from the North, or from any other quarter, and 706 therefore it is necessary that we ourselves should have free access to Afghanistan. The last speaker—I forget which constituency he sits for—seems to have an idea that we could remain in the plains and await an attack there. We could, of course, if we had only ourselves to consider, but we have the interest of Afghanistan to consider. As the Ameer said to the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the house of England and the house of Afghanistan is one, and has one outer wall, which has to be defended. There can be no doubt that we must positively hold the passes which will give us access to Afghanistan. These passes, from Peshawar on the East, to Quetta on the West, are the Khyber, the Kurram, the Tochi, the Ghumar, and the Bolan. The Khyber Pass is a road through which vehicles can pass. The Kurram Pass, by which Lord Roberts moved his troops into Afghanistan in the late war, is 12,000 feet high. English soldiers have spent some months there, but for many months in the year it is, in consequence of snow, impassable by troops. The Tochi Pass has not been surveyed, and therefore cannot be held so highly in esteem as the others. The Ghumar Pass is the great trade route for West Afghanistan; and the Bolan Pass is traversed by a railway which runs up to Quetta. There are two great interests at stake—both the defence of Afghanistan and the trade route. The Ghumar Pass is passed over every year by no less than 50,000 camels, which come from Afghanistan laden with the products of Afghanistan, and which return laden with the products of India, and not only the products of India, but of England also—as they carry Manchester calico and cotton, and Birmingham hardware, which are largely imported over this pass. So not only have we the interest of Afghanistan to consider, but we have also our own trade interest to consider. Mr. Speaker, if we are to retain these passes, the Lawrence mode of Government comes to an end. The Lawrence mode of government was a sealed Frontier. The passes are not on British territory, but many miles beyond it, the hill tribes being between. We have, in order to maintain these passes, to pass through the hill country. From a military point of view that is where this difficulty arose. You have five passes, and you are liable to 707 attack from ten flanks, each road having two flanks. This is our difficulty. These passes are not on the limits of our territory, but beyond those limits, and we, therefore, must, if we are to do our duty to the Ameer of Afghanistan, maintain, armed and fortified, the roads which lead up to the passes; and if we wish the tribes to be friendly disposed towards us, we must cultivate a friendly disposition towards them. Well, so far as I understand it, that is the policy which Her Majesty's Government intend to pursue. They say we must maintain our points of access to Afghanistan, and at the same time we wish to maintain an independent attitude towards the tribes. That is the policy which I believe is accepted by the other side of the House, as well as by this side. This is a question which is more important than any question affecting Chitral, as to the future of which I do not think we need look far. In the future, not perhaps during the time I may have the honour of addressing this House, but certainly during the time the younger Members may have that honour, we shall see the whole of these tribes as faithful and as devoted and as attached to our kingdom of England as are now the Goorkhas and the Sikhs and the other noble men who fight with us. This will not come by conquest, but by friendly dealing with the tribes. It is a question really of dealing with the tribes wisely during a length of years, so that these men, who have only one court of law, and that a court of assassination, and who spill each other's blood at the slightest provocation, will see that there are higher interests, and will be led to place themselves with us, and sooner or later become our loyal fellow subjects. We shall then have one great and undivided and peaceable country. Before I sit down I should like to say a few words about Chitral and the road to Chitral. We have also several considerations there. It does not appear to me that the route which was chosen for defensive purposes was the best route. There is one spot on that road—namely Asmar—which belongs to the Ameer of Afghanistan. If you refer to the map, you will see that Asmar does not belong to us but to the Ameer, and that he has power from that particular point to cut through 708 our road at any moment we might be at enmity with him. This is a great strategical fault, and destroys the value of the road. It is certain we do not, mean to give up Chitral; we have had trouble there, and if we did give up the present road to-day we should have to consider the making of another one rather further to the south. The road to Chitral, while it originally served for war, is now serving for peace. It may be a matter of interest, and also a matter of news, to this House, that the caravans going along this road are conveying merchandise doubly as valuable as that which goes through the Khyber to Kabul. The Ameer of Afghanistan levies heavy import duties in respect to goods entering his country, and we have ourselves direct access to Chitral. In Chitral itself we have not only the interests of war, but also the interests of peace, and these are interests which always govern us in dealing with India. I will only say, in conclusion, that there is one other point which I rather regretted, and that is that Her Majesty's Government has not seen fit to hold out a hope of some financial assistance to the Government of India. I do not think it has ever happened within our memory, or even in the history of this century, that the Government of any country has had to meet the three great evils—the evil of famine, the evil of plague, and the evil of war, in one year; and although we are extremely glad to hear that the financial statement of India is likely to be a good one this year, yet they must have had a very heavy drain on their resources. It is characteristic of Englishmen that they always wish to give financial assistance in case of distress, and I should myself have been glad if Her Majesty's Government had thought fit to give some financial assistance in this case; but we must wait until we see the Indian Budget. There is no doubt that something coming from this country would show the deep and heartfelt sympathy which we have with India in the great troubles she is going through.
§ *MR. DUCKWORTH (Lancashire, Middleton)
Mr. Speaker, I crave the indulgence of the House while I say a few words on this very important subject. I should not ask this indulgence had not this subject been a most prominent one in the 709 contest which resulted in my being elected a Member of this House. In my first address to my constituents, and at the meetings before which I appeared as a candidate, this was the first topic to which I addressed myself. Throughout the whole of the contest I gave prominence to the policy of the Government on the Indian Frontier, as also did the speakers who spoke in support of my candidature, and those who opposed me; and it does seem to me that, having an opportunity of speaking in this House while this subject is under discussion, not only those who opposed me in the late contest, but my own friends might charge me with want of courage if I did not embrace the opportunity and say some of the things in this House that I said during the contest a few weeks ago. Now, Sir, I shall not address myself at all to what may be called the technicalities of this subject. These matters have been brought before us at great length; and I think that we all have a very clear idea of our opinions and convictions with reference to them. I think a new Member, coming into this House and entering into a discussion of this kind, looks at the subject as it affects those whom he represents; and that being so, I shall confine myself pretty closely to that line of argument. There was great opposition in Lancashire to the policy of the Government on the question of the Indian frontier; first, because it interfered very greatly with the trade of the district. It will be within the knowledge of hon. Gentlemen in this House that in Lancashire, especially that part of Lancashire which I have the honour now to represent, there are large mills or factories where cotton is manufactured, large spinning mills and large weaving sheds, finding employment for the great majority of the people who live in those districts. Some of those mills or factories have private owners who run them, but the largest and most modern of those mills are held by shareholders, and are under the Limited Liability Act, many of the working people themselves having large holdings in those mills. Now, the policy of the Government on the Indian frontier is looked upon as interfering very largely with the successful working of those mills. It is well known that for some years back the dividends in those mills 710 have been very small; in fact, in large numbers of them there has been no dividend, and in those where a dividend has been paid at all it has been very small and very unsatisfactory. Those who hold those shares, and the people generally, look upon the policy of the Government on the Indian frontier as having a tendency to make the people of India still more poor, and prevent them becoming the customers for those goods which are required in their districts. This tends very largely to diminish or annihilate the prosperity which might otherwise attend these enterprises. But while this is a strong objection to the policy of the Government on the Indian frontier, many people think that a stronger objection is found to that policy on moral grounds. Our people can suffer if they know that they are suffering for that which is just and right. This was illustrated very forcibly during the Civil War in America. But they are restless and uneasy when they are suffering for that which they believe is unnecessary and unjust, and they look upon the war which is now being waged by the Government on the Indian frontier as altogether unnecessary and unjust; moreover, they believe it to be a false policy. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, in his speech yesterday, complained of the speeches which had been made during the autumn outside this House. Especially did he complain of a speech by the late Home Secretary. But speeches during the autumn have also been made by hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite, in which they give us the idea that they hold the opinion or conviction that the Government was specially commissioned by Providence to civilise and Christianise, not only the tribes on the Indian frontier, but also in Africa: that it was necessary, in going to these tribes, to civilise them and Christianise them, to sometimes shoot them down, on the assumption that that, perhaps, was the best way in which civilisation and Christianity could be taken to them. The speech of the noble Lord, the Secretary for India yesterday, I was pleased to find, was much more reasonable than some of the speeches to which I refer I was very pleased to find that no reference was made to what we look upon as a scientific frontier. I do not remember that that phrase was used at all. 711 I hope the scientific frontier, as well as the frontier of this Forward movement, as we have understood it, will be abandoned. If argument were wanted I would refer the noble Lord and his friends to some sound and wise advice given by a former leader, Mr. Disraeli, who said that when he looked at the position of India, and saw that it was protected on the north-west by a boundary of mountains, and by ten thousand miles of ocean on the east and west, he wanted to know how a stronger barrier or a more efficient frontier was to be secured than they before possessed, and which Nature seemed to mark out as the limit of a great Empire. That this policy should have been persisted in so long shows the strength of the military element in India, and the Indian Government and society. Sir John Kay, the historian of the Afghan war, said—In India, every war is more or leas popular. The constitution of Anglo-Indian society renders it almost impossible that it should be otherwise.The noble Lord, I was pleased to find, said he had great respect for the opinion of military men, but at the same time he thought there was too much tendency now-a-days to look upon war as a game of chess. He admitted there was no good in keeping military posts unless they could make use of them. That I take to be sound common-sense. I hope it indicates the reversal of the policy hitherto pursued by the Government; if not a reversal of that policy, at all events, an effort to meet what I believe to be right and just, not only to the tribes, but to the best interests of our country. When it was stated that this war originated in the neglect of our duty and the violation of the rights of others, I could not help thinking what a late fellow-townsman of mine, the late John Bright, would have said. I know not, nor do I care, on which side he would have sat, but I am sure his voice would have been raised against this war. "He, being dead, yet speaketh." Let us listen to his voice. But there is another voice, which is happily not yet still. These were his solemn words of warning, with which I will conclude—It is written in the eternal laws of God that sin shall be followed by suffering. An 712 unjust war is a tremendous sin. The day will arrive when the people of England will discover that national injustice is the surest road to national downfall.
§ *SIR LEWIS MCIVER (Edinburgh, W.)
I congratulate the hon. Member, who has just spoken, on the frank and ingenuous way in which he has presented to us the plea that the most important question in this Debate is the reduction of the dividends of certain industrial and commercial enterprises in his constituency. He travelled some distance from that important technical ground to the higher ground covered by the improving quotation with which he finished. I tender to him my most respectful congratulations. The Debate has varied very much in temper since it began yesterday afternoon. The prediction I ventured upon a week ago has been more than abundantly verified yesterday. India was very largely lost sight of in the exchange of compliments across that Table. Today, in a cooler and more rarefied atmosphere, we have had the question presented to us in a more dignified fashion. I still feel bound to charge my Friends opposite with an inability to get away from the Party view of the Indian question. I have a quotation here from a speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Montrose Burghs, who said—There is nothing on which Liberals ought to set their hearts more firmly than resistance—strong resistance—to the Forward policy in India.Honourable Gentlemen opposite applaud that sentiment. I ask permission to join in the applause; it is an admirable sentiment. But, why Liberals? Since when has this resistance to the Forward policy become an integral and a leading article in the Liberal faith? Since when has it become their monopoly. I ask the House, if proof were wanted of the hide-bound, sectarian view which that Bench takes of Indian questions, is it not abundantly furnished by this unconscious revelation of the right hon. Gentleman's mental attitude? It is not the people of the Empire, or the people of India; it is not the people 713 of this country, nor the Members of this House of Commons, who are to resist the "Forward" policy, but "the Liberals"—and, again I ask, why the Liberals? And since when has this been an article of their creed? Was it an article of their creed—when Lord Ripon, with the sanction of a Liberal Secretary of State, entered upon an agreement with the Ameer of Afghanistan, which commits us to defending his territory against foreign invasion? Why, Sir, that agreement is the Magna Charta of the modern Forward school in India! It is their rock and their sure defence whenever their policy is impugned. Their invariable answer is that this or that step is absolutely necessary to enable us to be in a position to fulfil our agreement with the Ameer. The undertaking to defend his territory, they say, involves our determining on our line of action should such a necessity arise. By common agreement, they say it will be necessary for us to take up a position along the line known as the Kandahar-Kabul road, and to do so with extreme rapidity. For that purpose we must have easy and abundant access to that road, and hence the restless desire to pierce the intervening country—the country of the hill tribes—by roads converging upon the principal points on that line. Sir, is the birth of Liberal enthusiasm on this point to date from the Durand Agreement, when, under a Liberal Secretary of State, Sir Mortimer Durand entered on that agreement with the Ameer, the delimitation of the Frontier, under which has undeniably been one of the chief, if not the chief, of the existing causes of the unrest, suspicion, and activity among the tribes on our frontier? Or does the Liberal monopoly date from the time when, under the same Liberal Secretary of State, we established ourselves permanently in Chitral, or when, under similar circumstances, and under a Liberal Secretary of State, and a Liberal Viceroy, Dr. Robertson was sent to Chitral as kingmaker? Clearly up to 1894, this doctrine had not been very firmly embedded in the Liberal creed, but in that year, apart from the questions I have referred to, not only was resistance to the "Forward" policy unknown to the Liberal mind, but under the ægis of a Liberal Secretary of State, and a Liberal Viceroy, the "Forward" 714 Party achieved its greatest triumph, and was allowed to enter on its uncontrolled career in marching and counter-marching and fighting and planting forts and cantonments, and making roads throughout the length and breadth of Waziristan—a triumph which was at the root of all the Frontier fighting in which we have been engaged for the last six months. And here, Mr. Speaker, I must express my surprise at the very light way in which this—the most important forward action on the Frontier—has been treated in this Debate. I refer to the invasion, and the practical annexation of Waziristan, which we owe to the right hon. Gentleman, the late Secretary of State for India. The noble Lord referred to the subject with what I hold to be very generous restraint, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton passed over it with what I think was very prudent lightness. In the course of last night's debate, he said—The whole question between Lord Elgin and myself and the dissenting Members of the Council was this—They said that the policy which we contemplated assured complete responsibility for the administration of the independent tribes. If I had thought for one moment that there was foundation for that assumption I should not have reluctantly assented; I should have dissented. But I regarded the whole matter from first to last, as I regard it now, as a purely police arrangement.A purely police arrangement! Sir, it was a purely police arrangement, which involved at starting the use of 5,000 troops. That, in itself, is a rather tall order, but it also involved the establishment of a permanent post in the region of Wano.
§ *SIR LEWIS McIVER
I am aware of the purposes of the expedition, and when the right hon. Gentleman interrupted me I proposed to state them to the House. The delimitation party, as I said last week, was regarded as a delightful opportunity for killing two birds with one stone. The escort was to be increased for that purpose to the 5,000 men I have mentioned, half of whom were held in reserve. The professed object of the expedition was a little 715 police experiment of the right hon. Gentleman's. The delimitative operations referred to the effective control of Waziristan, and the establishment upon a permanent footing of a strong post in the region of Wano.
§ *SIR LEWIS McIVER
Well, Sir, I will give it to you from the despatch—We are distinctly of opinion that something must be done to strengthen our position, if we describe it as establishing a strong post at Spin on a permanent footing.
§ *SIR LEWIS McIVER
Yes, Sir, Spin. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, out of the resources of his superior official information, to say if the distance between the two is not very minute. At all events, I am at liberty to say that Wano is in the heart of the southern portion of Waziristan with which I am dealing. I submit that it was, at all events, treating the subject somewhat inadequately in this House, to describe as a purely police arrangement a movement which is concerned in advancing 5,000 troops to establish a strong post on a permanent footing, and which had for its object the effectual control of Waziristan, a country between five and six times the size of Yorkshire, and as mountainous as Switzerland. That was only the beginning of our action in Waziristan, and it resulted in the expedition fighting for its life within a few weeks of its entering Waziristan. Five hundred Ghazis broke into the camp, and into the very middle of the transport depôt. Then followed the usual punitive expedition, commanded, of course, by Sir William Lockhart. And here I would draw the attention of the House to an extremely interesting fact, which has not been brought out in this Debate. Half of this Debate has been taken up by the discussion of a proclamation issued in March, 1895, in the matter of the Chitral Road, and the intentions of the Government announced in that proclamation; will it surprise the House to know that an almost precisely similar proclamation was issued in the course of the punitive expedition to 716 which I have just referred? Why, Sir, this proclamation is a regular item, it is kept in type, it is what our military friends call a "sealed pattern" and the Government plays it at the starting of these expeditions just as invariably as the regimental band plays "The Girl I left Behind Me." On this occasion the Government was no doubt filled with the best intentions, and meant Sir William Lockhart to come away as soon as his work was done. But, did he come away? No, he is there still, and more than there still, and not in one post, but in twenty posts. There is a post at Wano, another at Jandola; we have occupied the Shuhur Valley, we have occupied the Khaisara, and have half a dozen other posts about the place. We have occupied Barwand and Sarwaki, But presently it was discovered that perhaps the best way to secure effectual control of Waziristan would be to approach it from the Tochi Valley on the northern side. Representations to that effect reached the right hon. Gentleman precisely in one week after the dispatch, upon which he decided to abandon Chitral, and he kept it in his portfolio for three weeks and never acted upon it, but left it as a fatal legacy to his unfortunate successor, the noble Lord who sits below me. I think that, with these four leading instances, I may be well excused if I ask both why, and since when, this splendid sentiment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Montrose Burghs should be confined to Liberals? I would almost be inclined to imagine that there is a hidden meaning in his remark. Was it an invitation to a wholesale, if belated, act of repentance? Was it remorse in his own soul for evil courses to which he had given something more than "sombre acquiescence"? Was it, in fact, a delicate way of proposing that the Liberal Party should sit in a white sheet on the stool of repentance for the disastrous consequences of the Forward policy of which they have been the chief exponents for the last fifteen or twenty years? But, Sir, when the right hon. Member was denouncing, as he was pleased to call it, the Frontier policy of the present Government, he was discreetly silent about all those engagements and all those aggressive actions for which he himself, according 717 to the theory of Cabinet responsibility, was so largely responsible. The hon. Member the Mover of this Amendment bases his attack upon the Government on the fact that it did not evacuate Chitral, which his own Party had occupied, and did not abandon a road which his own Party had made, and did not desert allies to whom his own Party were bound by obligations of honour. He takes little heed of the fact that the course adopted by the present Secretary of State was urged upon him by a unanimous Government of India. His contention about the Chitral road was, first, that we were bound to withdraw by the terms of the Proclamation; and secondly, that the fact that we did not withdraw was the cause of all the Frontier troubles we have had to encounter. Sir, I deny both charges. I deny that we were under any obligation of honour to withdraw from the Chitral road. I admit the Proclamation in its fullest interpretation, but not only do I deny that there was any engagement or any Treaty or any understanding with any person competent to enter into these with us, but I submit to this House that the terms of that Proclamation were such as to show merely that we had certain excellent intentions which were absolutely dependent on the conduct of the people. But, Sir, the Government of India is always full of good intentions; it never had a better stock of them than when it invaded Waziristan in 1894. Invariably, however, in such situations, they have found that circumstances, fostered, it may be, by the watchful Forward Party, have been too strong for their good intentions. In the case of the Chitral road, the intentions were announced conditionally, and those conditions were not complied with. The Proclamation amounted to this, that if the tribes on the road to Chitral left us alone, we would let them alone. They did not leave us alone, and so the thing fell through, and we were left, as I maintain, with a free hand, according to the terms of the Proclamation. As a matter of fact, we know that they fought us in thousands half the way to Chitral. They refused the terms of the Proclamation, and there is no precedent for our binding ourselves by terms which were not 718 accepted. But, Sir, this idea of a breach of faith has been developed two years after its alleged occurrence. It does not seem to have vexed the Liberal Government, as they never referred to it in their despatches. It never seems to have occurred to the tribes themselves, as in their application for aid to the Ameer they do not even mention it. But this belated charge, this Party afterthought, was used only when the Afridis and the Orakzais had risen against us, and Sir William Lockhart's army was marching on the frontier, and when the invasion of the Swat Valley by Mullah-led fanatics from Bajour and elsewhere had been successfully repelled; because, parenthetically, I may remind the House that the fighting on the Chitral road was hardly at all a rising of the local tribes. This brings me to my second point, as to the attempt made to connect these Frontier risings with the occupation of Chitral. We know now, from the publication of dispatches and other evidence, as well as from knowledge of the geographical facts, that there is no ground for that argument. There were various forces at work to produce these risings, most of which were local, and some of which were, perhaps, our fault. There is no doubt that fanaticism is a very great force there, but I would suggest that there was a still greater force, and that was the delimitation under the Durand Agreement, of which I approved, but which possibly spread amongst the people, accompanied as it was by a certain amount of military display, a feeling of suspicion that we meant to annex their territories. The trouble began in the Tochi Valley, and may be said to have been due, to some extent, to the land-grabbing propensities of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who has just left the House, the Jingoism of the right hon. Member for East Fife, and the bellicose disposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Montrose Burghs. It has been said to be due also to the aggressive feeling of the late Liberal Secretary of State. But there were various causes, and it had nothing more to do with the occupation of Chitral than the Maidstone epidemic had to do with the Bombay plague. Well, Sir, there is one other point raised in this Debate, and that is 719 as to the manner of conducting this campaign. It has been said that we have been murdering and destroying the native inhabitants of these mountains, and that to hold India against them we should require not only 30,000 British bayonets, and an addition of 70,000 natives to our Army, without which it would be impossible to detach a sufficiently large force for duty in a Frontier war; but we must recognise that, if we go into such a war, we have got to strike home and to strike hard. That the Mad Mullah's fanatical zeal carried some of them with him before it was over is, of course, a fact. But the rising did not take place among those through whose land the road passes. Sir, that brings me to the second point of the hon. and learned Gentleman about the Chitral road. He, in this House, and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, on many platforms throughout the country, have used what I call this Party afterthought, in order, by connecting it with the remote and wholly irrelevant Afridi rising, to make their political opponents responsible for that rising. Well, Sir, we know now that Chitral had nothing to do with the general rising on the Frontier—we know that on positive evidence; on the chronological facts; on the evidence of the tribesmen themselves, on the documentary evidence now in the possession of the Government of India. To those who know about the Frontier the suggestion was abundantly ridiculous from the first. We know that each of the separate risings was probably contributed to by local causes, but that the main pervading cause was first a recrudescence of fanaticism inspired from outside, and secondly, the unrest and suspicion awakened by our delimitation operations and the military display which accompanied them. We know more accurately now the explanations of some of these issues—they began in the Tochi Valley in consequence of the action of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite. That is the historical commencement of these troubles. The landgrabbing propensities of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Montrose Burghs the jingoism of East Fife, the bellicose attitude of the Forward policy. The rising in Waziristan may be ascribed to the aggression of the Forward Party, the operations of the Delimitation Expedition, completed by fana- 720 ticism and reinforced by the enduring passion for loot. They were renewed in the Swat Valley by the Mad Mullah or Sartor Fakir. The rising of the Mohmands, the attacks on Shabkadr, the burning of the village of Shankargurh, were due to fanaticism plus loot. But when it comes to the question of the Afridis and the Orakzais, I confess, apart from the general fanatical movement and jealousy that the Mohmands should have interfered with their natural prey, I am not prepared to offer an explanation. But there is one negative explanation undeniable; it is certain beyond all question that nothing we ever did in Chitral affected these two tribes. Sir, I repeat here what I said three months ago on a platform, before all this evidence was at our disposal—"there is not a single Orakzai or Afridi on the whole Frontier who would waste a jezail bullet, far less a precious Lee-Metford bullet, for a dozen Chitral roads." I doubt if the average Afridi or Orakzai ever heard of Chitral. Imagine in the old Scotch times a Campbell fashing himself because the Stuarts had lifted the MacGregors' cattle. Why, Sir, the two things—the Mad Mullah's crusade in Swat and the rising of the Afridis and Orakzais—had about as much to do with one another as the Bombay plague had to do with the typhoid epidemic at Maidstone. There is one point apart, which has been raised in this Debate by the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth. He has passed strictures on the conduct of the campaign in the Tirah—on the destruction of winter stores and crops, and the consequent sufferings of the Pathan women and children; and, on the theory of Cabinet responsibility for everything, there is charged against the Government the "heavy hand" of Sir William Lockhart. Well, Sir, we all deplore the sufferings caused to innocent people in the Tirah, just as we deplore the sufferings caused to the women and children in the late engineers' strike. But these things are incidents of war—unhappily incidents, but inevitable. What does the hon. Baronet want? If he were entrusted with the conduct of a campaign in the Afghan Hills, how would he do it? With kid gloves and rosewater? No, Sir; the one thing the Afridi understands is the "heavy hand." The foreknowledge of 721 retribution for wrong-doing—past a certain point—is the one thing which keeps him in even moderate righteousness for a space. We hold a continent as large as Europe (without Russia), with 70,000 British bayonets. They are hardly sufficient for their ordinary duties. We cannot afford to detach many of them for prolonged periods or at frequent intervals on Frontier expeditions. So, when we strike, we have to strike hard and strike home. Again, our soldiers are not only few, but they are dear. The tribes are numerous, and with them human life is not highly priced. To us these wars are expensive and unpopular. To the Afridis they are cheap and charming; and they fully realise the advantage this gives them.Strike hard who cares; shoot straight who can,The odds are on the cheaper man.These are not wars followed by a War Indemnity to the victor. But the protection of our own women and children at Peshawar and Bannu—at Kohat and in the Derajat—is chiefly in the Pathan knowledge that if—The wheels of the Sarkar grind slowly,They grind exceeding small.Mr. Speaker, Sir, I hope the outcome of this Debate may be some form of agreement between the two Front Benches, which may lead to a saner and safer policy for India; to, at all events, an authoritative pronouncement with regard to our obligations to the Ameer: first, as to whether, in the event of the invasion of Afghanistan by a foreign foe, we are bound to send an army into Afghanistan. If not, the whole of the present theories of the Forward Party fall to the ground. But, even if we are bound to send an army, whether the present expense is not out of all proportion to the remote contingency involved. Secondly, are we bound to police our outer boundary, which touches Afghanistan? There are two opinions 722 on this question, and I should like to be informed what are the interpretations of the Durand Agreement by the two Front Benches on this point. Finally, I want, at all events, to seize this opportunity to say that, in attacking the recent Forward policy, I am not attacking our distinguished military officers in India. It is the system I attack. Under the impression that we are bound to send an army to the Cabul-Kandahar line, they, as scientific strategists, have taken every oportunity available for securing every possible facility to that end. If they are informed that this is not a course held to be necessary, they will follow any new policy ordained, with the same loyalty as the old one, and will devote themselves as strenuously to developing the effects of a policy of wise conciliation as they have carried out the late policy of fatuous exasperation.
§ *SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouth, W.)
I have listened, with a good deal of interest and some amusement, to the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down. There is a well known poem by the late Poet-Laureate, called "The Two Voices." Well, one voice we heard last week. It was delivered from below the Gangway. To-night we hear the other voice, giving expressions to exactly opposite views, from immediately behind the bench where sits the Secretary of State for India. The first speech to which I refer, was one which denounced the predominance of the military party, and the second contains what I have no doubt, is a very well-deserved apology for that party. But I am not going to pursue the line of argument which the hon. Member has adopted. For our part, we are very well satisfied to leave the question of the controversy, as it has been called, between the two Front Benches as it stands, and which has already been adequately discussed. I desire to confine the observations, which it is my duty to offer, to the 723 latter part of the speech of the Secretary of State for India, which contrasted in its tone and its temper very agreeably with the earlier part. We have been invited by a sort of eirenicon to accept and adopt the principles laid down by the noble Lord, and I entirely believe that if we could come to some understanding as to the principles upon which this vitally important question of our Frontier policy ought hereafter to be conducted it would be of great advantage to ourselves and of benefit to the Empire. In that I entirely concur, and I hope that in what I am going to say I shall not exhibit any desire to repel any agreement that is possible on such a subject. Now, Sir, I must observe this, that general propositions are of little value unless you test them by application to particulars; and, therefore, if I may be allowed to enumerate the propositions of the Secretary of State and ask how they are to be illustrated in action, I think I shall be pursuing a line of argument which it is useful to adopt. Reference was made by the last speaker to the suspicion urged over and over again that the Durand Agreement was one of the main causes of the present unfortunate campaign. I use the word "suspicion," because I need not repeat the able statement of the real character of the Durand Agreement already made by my right hon. Friend, the Member for Fife. It is an entire mistake to suppose that that Agreement altered in any respect the relations of the British power to the independent tribes. It was an agreement between Great Britain and the Ameer that the one should not interfere with the other, but neither had the right to dispose of the independent tribes, and the Ameer could not give us more in regard to those tribes than we possessed before. All that he undertook to do was not to interfere himself. This is, unquestionably, the true construction of the Durand Agreement, and no man who has ever read it can doubt it for a moment. It is purely nega- 724 tive as regards the non-intervention of the two parties. But it is perfectly true that that is a matter which naturally would be misunderstood by the tribes. It is obvious, on the face of it, that when you proceeded to delimit and to set up posts to mark out the line between yourselves and the Ameer beyond which neither party must interfere with the other, these tribes might well suspect that these were signs of your desiring to occupy their territory. But, Sir, I will say that the effect of such a suspicion—the natural effect of such a suspicion—ought to make everyone extremely careful that nothing was done in the way of occupation that should confirm or increase that suspicion. That is what I have to say upon the subject of the Durand Agreement Now I come to one of the propositions laid down by the Secretary of State with which, in terms, I absolutely agree. The chief difficulty I have is that these propositions absolutely condemn your Chitral policy as our Resolution condemns it. He says that it is not enough in regard to an advance, for instance, of the character of the advance into Chitral, to say that it was desirable in itself, but that you must show that the advantage was likely to be such as amply to compensate for the risk and expenditure associated with it. Now I accept that statement altogether, but I ask any man in this House, or out of it, whether, after what has occurred, he can truly say that the advantage of the occupation of Chitral was such as, on the balance, amply to compensate for the risk and expenditure incurred. That is the way I want to test these propositions. But, Sir, there comes the statement that you are compelled to remain in Chitral, whether the balance was greater or less—indeed, even if the balance is enormously against you—because you are bound in honour towards the people there, who have befriended you, to remain. Well, Sir, I do not remember this argument ever having been put for- 725 ward before this Debate. It is absolutely a new doctrine on the part of Her Majesty's Government. It is a very remarkable fact that this obligation of honour has been put forward now, though it has never been put forward before this Debate. Of course, Sir, when Her Majesty's Government were taking what certainly is not an ordinary course, but an exceptional course, in reversing the decision of their predecessors, you would have supposed that this overwhelming argument of the obligation of honour would have been the very first ground relied upon for reversing that decision, and would have been one of the very first reasons given for their action. Well, Sir, the noble Lord referred to a passage in the dispatch of the Indian Government, on the 8th May, in which something was said about our not giving up the Chitralis, but he had failed to observe that that passage did not relate to anything connected with our occupation. It referred distinctly to a proposal which had been made by the Indian Government that Chitral should be given up to the Ameer; that we should leave it altogether, and surrender it to the Ameer; and it was to that alone that those observations quoted by the noble Lord related. But, Sir, I come to the grounds stated by the Secretary of State for his decision; he wrote a dispatch in great detail, setting forth at full length all the arguments which induced him to reverse the decision of his predecessors, but there was not a single word in that dispatch on the subject of the obligation in point of honour to remain in Chitral. But, more than that, both the Indian Government and the Government in Downing Street treated the whole matter as one of a balance of cost and a balance of risk. The Indian Government said that the cost may be so great, the risk, with reference to the tribes, may be so great, that it would be prohibitive to remain there. That statement is repeated in the dispatch show- 726 ing that their new cheval de bataille—the obligation of honour to remain in Chitral—had never occurred to Her Majesty's Government, and had never been put forward until the last week or two. It is an entire after-thought, an absolutely new invention, and so I dispose of that argument. I stand, then, on the proposition put forward by the Secretary of State that it must be a balance of advantage setting the cost and the risk against other considerations which might make an occupation desirable. And I affirm that there is no such favourable balance to justify your occupation of Chitral. Now I come to another pro position. The Secretary of State says that you must have some policy—some distinct policy—for dealing with the tribes, and he pointed out that there are two schools—one, which is called the Sind school, which is the Sandeman system; and the other is that which is known as the Punjaub system. The first is a system of control of the tribes, the other is a system of non-intervention. The Secretary of State says that there are strong objections to the adoption of the Sandeman plan to the north of Baluchistan; and he says that we must keep the Sandeman system and the Punjaub system to their respective districts, and he declares that he has decided not to apply the Sandeman system north of Baluchistan. Very well, I agree with that decision. The Punjaub system represents practically the principles and the policy of Lord Lawrence as to non-intervention among the tribes. But, then, Sir, we are placed in some difficulties, when the noble Lord asks us to agree with him. There is a great authority sitting by the noble Lord who, with signal ability, has addressed the House to-night. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs has delivered an elaborate argument to show that the noble Lord is wrong in his decision, and that the Sandeman system ought to be applied to those very districts to which the noble Lord says he has decided it cannot be applied. How 727 can you expect us to agree with you in that policy when the two great doctores dubitantium are not agreed among themselves as to the vital principles of the policy to be pursued among the tribes? Sir, I come to another proposition in which also I am prepared to agree with the noble Lord. The noble Lord agrees with the first speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down, and he disagrees with the speech which that gentleman has made to-night. He thinks that the military party are too apt to regard the Frontier as the Germans play the war game of chess, and that they determined to occupy places which they thought convenient. But, as the noble Lord very prudently observed, when you occupy posts without regard to the feelings of the tribes, then you find yourselves in a worse position when the emergency arises. Yes, Sir, I daresay that the noble Lord would be very glad if he could restrain these military chess players, but he cannot. In my opinion, one of the most culpable and dangerous features in the whole of this transaction has been the conduct of Sir George White, the Commander - in - Chief of those armies. What is your policy? You tell us your policy is to conciliate the Frontier tribes with whom you are in conflict; but the Commander-in-Chief of the armies in conflict with those tribes, whose independence you profess your desire to preserve, and whom you wish to bring into agreement with yourselves, stands up and is enthusiastically applauded at Simla, and this is what he says—Civilisation and barbarism cannot exist conterminously, and at the same time peaceably, as independent neighbours.That is the way in which the independence of the tribes is to be respected; that is the way in which the tribes are to be conciliated. They are to be told that civilisation cannot exist conterminously, and at the same time peaceably. He recommends also that the tribes 728 should be controlled, and that they should be disarmed, and then he adds—What I have said represents my opinion only.And he says—In a Constitution such as ours, in which illogical but time-serving compromises are so important a part, it is necessary that he should express that opinion.The time-serving compromises being, I should imagine, the policy enunciated by the noble Lord. Well, I object altogether to any man in command of the armies of the Queen proclaiming his own opinions upon a policy without authority from the Government under which he serves. It is contrary to the Constitution of this country, it is contrary to the safety of this Empire, and, Sir, I venture to say it is contrary to every precedent of any man in Sir George White's position, who has understood his duty and acted upon it. Show me an example of the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsula or on the Plains of Belgium putting forward claims of this kind to direct and control the policy of the Government. So you have this military party in India, not only with two voices in the Council of India, but with, shall I say, the Commander-in-Chief on the stump declaring that peace is impossible with the independent tribes at the very moment that you are asking us to believe that you are wishing to conciliate them. That is the danger, that is the mischief which has been the cause of the Afghan Wars, which is the cause of unnumbered evils to our Indian Empire, and which has been the prime cause of this unfortunate campaign. Sir, I am surprised that amongst all these papers and Blue Books that have been laid before us we have not found any telegram or dispatch from Her Majesty's Government which should have given some assurance to the tribes on the Frontier that Sir George White was not 729 declaring in that language the policy of Her Majesty's Government. The Secretary of State has said that he is in favour of applying to these troubles the Punjaub policy, and he has properly described that as being Lord Lawrence's policy, and so it is. The Under Secretary to-night referred to some words of mine in which I have expressed my adhesion to that policy, but the Under Secretary entirely misapprehended—I am sure he did not intend to misrepresent—the language I used. I was speaking then of the spirit which inspired the policy of Lord Lawrence. To go back to the River Indus. I know perfectly well is impossible. When you departed from the policy of Lord Lawrence there remained consequences which you do not desire to see, but which are the natural and inevitable fruits of false steps which are taken, and which cannot be altogether retracted. But, Sir, what was the spirit and the policy of Lord Lawrence to which I, and I believe most Gentlemen on this side of the House, still constantly adhere? Again, I think the Under-Secretary did not do justice to Lord Lawrence's policy. He said it is superannuated. The memorable dispatch of 1867 was, he said, before the advance of Russia in Central Asia. I do not go back to 1867. The most valuable legacies, I may say, of the policy which was left to this country by Lord Lawrence were his declarations in 1877 and 1878, when the policy of Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Lytton was in its beginning, a policy which was absolutely founded on the fears of the advance of Russia. And it is a mistake to say that the policy of Lord Lawrence is superannuated. What was the policy he was then resisting? It was a policy of aggression when Lord Lytton addressed to the Ameer violent menaces on behalf of the British Government, and told him that a conflict between him and the power of Great Britain was like that of a collision between a brazen pot and an earthenware 730 pipkin. We all remember that troubled time, and I never think without shame of the pathetic appeal which was made by the representative of the Ameer in the Conference with the British Representatives. He appealed for justice and mercy. He said—The British nation is great and powerful, and the Afghan people cannot resist its power, but the people (and this is just as true of these present tribes which are Afghan in their nature) are self-willed, independent, and prize their homes above their lives. You must not impose upon us a burden which we cannot bear.What was that proposal? It was a proposal to send a British resident to Cabul—The people of Afghan had a dread of this proposal, and there was a firm conviction in their minds, and deeply rooted in their hearts, that if England, or any other European nation, once set foot in their country it would sooner or later pass out of their hands.That was the appeal which was made by the Afghan then. That is the feeling which exists amongst these tribes now. The Government of that day chose to disregard that appeal. Lord Lawrence in his last days protested against it, and what did Lord Lawrence say? And this is what I mean when I say that I adhere to the policy of Lord Lawrence. Lord Lawrence said—I have no doubt that we can clear the defiles and valleys of the Afghans, and that no force of Afghans could properly stand against this country, but their country was so broken up by mountain ranges and rugged plateaux that the defenders had considerable advantage, and when we forced their positions we could not continue to hold them.Why, he might have been describing this last campaign. He went on to say—The Afghan is courageous, hardy, and independent. The country he lives in is strong and sterile to a remarkable degree, extraordinarily adapted for guerilla warfare (you would think he was writing of to-day). These people never cease to resist so long as they have a hope of success, and when beaten down, they 731 have that kind of elasticity which will never prevent them from renewing the terrible struggle whenever the opportunity occurs.That is what I mean when I speak of the policy of Lord Lawrence. Well, says the right hon. Gentleman, the Under Secretary, "But you are not entitled to say that. You were the first to cross the mountains." No, Sir, we were the first to retire from that false position; and our colleagues were, in that decision, the Duke of Devonshire and the Colonial Secretary. According to my recollection they were the most active promoters of that policy. Yes, you were the persons to cross the mountains when you went to Kabul and left Cavagnari there to be murdered. If you say that there has been a Forward policy since, it has been so far the consequence of your original error. Now I go to another point raised in the speech of the Secretary of State. He says that he is against the dispersal of forces—concentrated mobilisation is his primary object. I quite agree in that, but is the occupation of Chitral an example of concentrative mobilisation, or is it not a dispersion of forces? It is quite obvious that if you are going to make more movements, more roads, more supports, and more fortresses in other directions, you are going absolutely against the whole principle laid down by the Secretary of State, in which he invited us to join him. Upon this subject of advanced fortresses I desire to lay before the House some forcible and well-known authorities upon which I rely, and upon which we have indeed, I venture to say, the highest authorities in the experience of India that can be adduced. There is no greater or more respected opinion than that of Sir Mortimer Durand. He was a colleague at that time of Lord North, or Lord Mayo. He says—Fortresses so much in advance of the main territories and strength of the country and neither to the offensive or the defensive forces of the State. They compromise a certain proportion of its strength in men and materials by isolating them, at vast distances from supports, in a hostile country.732 That is the opinion of one who was not only a great statesman, but who was also a Royal Engineer. Permit me to read from another great authority upon military tactics—I suppose there is no higher authority on the subject of military tactics—Sir Edward Hamley. He said—Apart from the question of a more formidable foe, it appears that he believed that posts pushed up the passes would lessen the chances of future contests with the unruly hill tribes. That they are unruly would appear an excellent reason for keeping them in our front, rather than in our rear.That was an opinion given long before these events. Therefore I do not think that these propositions of the noble Lord, as illustrated by a practice which, I understand, he still defends, carry us very far towards our Agreement. On the contrary, all his actions contradict the principles he has laid down to govern his policy. But, Sir, I entirely agree that the question of interest to the country, and with which we ought to occupy ourselves, is the future. Now, what is going to be your attitude towards the tribes in future? The noble Lord criticised our use of the words "independent tribes." But nobody has ever used any other words in dealing with these tribes. You did not have any difficulty in your proclamation when your assurance was given to respect the independence of the tribes. It appears in the dispatch of the noble Lord, and very prominently, I think, in the speeches of the Leader of the House, speeches which were meant to reassure the country and explain to them you were not endeavouring in any way whatever to infringe upon that independence which these tribes so deeply value and so valiantly assert. I was, indeed, astonished when I heard the language which the noble Lord held upon the subject, and I said, audibly, I think, "Do you deny the independence?" and his reply was, "Yes, I deny the inde- 733 pendence." I think that is a most injudicious phrase, and that phrase coming from the English Secretary of State, will resound along the whole Frontier of India. "I deny the independence," and then he says, "All these are robbers by heredity "—not the sort of language that a Government employs when it wishes to conciliate. If you wish to inflame public passion against these tribes, if you wish to make war upon these tribes, I can understand it, but robbery, "hereditary robbery"—it would not be very convenient to inquire into the antecedents of many tribes of very noble origin as regards the question of robbery, and really, Sir, so good a Tory as the noble Lord ought to bear in mind the etymology of that word. If not. I will refer him to the dictionary. Well, Sir, this is the way in which the noble Lord seeks to assure the people of England and the people of India that he respects the independence of the tribes. All I can say of the noble Lord's speech on this subject is that it is a faithful echo of the rhetoric of Sir George White. I contrast that part of his speech with the proposition that he lays down that we ought to give conclusive proof that we are most reluctant to interfere with the independence of the tribes.
§ *SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I think I copied it correctly. I think the noble Lord said, "Interfere with the independence of the tribes." If he thinks not, then I accept his recollection. Very well; but he did not give conclusive proof of being reluctant to interfere with the tribes when he erected forts in their midst, and here I must explain to the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why I called his attention to the Blue Book. He said that my hon. and learned Friend, the Mover of this Amendment to the Address, had not read the Blue Book. I am afraid that I 734 must bring the same charge against him. I gave him the opportunity of correcting himself, but he obviously was not conversant with the contents of the second Blue Book. I gave him the page and referred him to it, and he said, "Oh! there is nothing whatever about the opinion of the tribes." Of course he was loudly cheered. That is quite natural; it is distinctive of Party loyalty, which we all understand and desire to be extended to ourselves. But, Sir, allow me to make the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs acquainted with the Blue Hook, the second Blue Book presented to the House of Commons. He insisted that this dispatch, which is the Ameer's account, only referred to what Her Majesty's Government had communicated to him. I pointed out that that was not the passage I relied upon. The first paragraph to which the right hon. Gentleman referred was a communication from Her Majesty's Government to the Ameer. The next paragraph is what these tribes said to the Ameer, and what their complaints were. Now, what was it they said to the Ameer? The Ameer states—I saw some of these people, and asked them, by way of advice, why they were disobeying the illustrious British Government, and exposing themselves to slaughter and loss?What was their answer to that question—They said that their proceedings were undertaken owing to the helpless circumstances in which they were involved, and they gave the particulars as stated below, i.e, that during former years a firm promise was given, on behalf of the illustrious British Government, to the Frontier tribesmen—the promise, you see, they relied uponthat they would always be exempted from the restrictions of Government laws, and would remain independent in their own country.735 Then, that having been the promise of the Government, they complained that—British officials, disregarding the orders of the Government of India issued to them (the tribesmen), began to make roads.What, I ask, is the use of affirming that the tribes did not complain of the roads?
§ MR. CURZON
As the right hon. Gentleman challenges me on the question in that way, what I said was that there were only two references to the construction of the road. The right hon. Gentleman challenged me with reference to the paragraph which he has just read. There is no reference whatever in that to the Chitral and Surat Roads. The allusion is to the Samanra Range, which is several miles distant from the locality.
§ *SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. He has not read the Blue Book, which says, "roads in general," and it says that the complaint is made by the people in general.
§ *SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I beg your pardon. However, it is not worth while pursuing that any further. Then the noble Lord said—and I am very glad to hear him say it—that what he had to say to the Forward men was, "You can go so far and no further." Well, Sir, if he meant the military men, I am afraid he will find himself very much in the position that King Canute was in when he was advised to say, "You may go so far and no further." But, Sir, I wonder whether he has addressed this injunction to the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, "You may go so far and no further." I am sorry to say that as regards any reconciliation of our views, the right hon. Gentleman has not made the thing any better—in my opinion he has 736 made it a great deal worse. We all know the right hon. Gentleman is a bold and adventurous traveller, but he is also a very bold and adventurous Statesman. Of all the Forward school he has always been the most forward, and in his eloquent speech to-night he has not belied his reputation. The policy boldly sketched by the Under Secretary to-night was, in my opinion, a policy absolutely inconsistent with any independence of the tribes. It is not even the Punjaub policy of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for India. He repudiates that. He says that we are to go on—I think I am not misrepresenting him—to the delimited Frontier, and that we must have possession or control of that delimited Frontier. But to go there you must go through all the country of the tribes, where you find it necessary for that purpose, and for what object? He tells us of that interesting conversation he had had with the Ameer, and he said that we were the friends, the supporters, and the guarantors of the Ameer, and that we must have only one wall. But the Ameer did not mean the wall between us and himself. He meant the wall of his outer Frontier. Well, then, I want to know why is it necessary for you to have, as I understand the right hon. Gentleman, some sort of military occupation or power over that wall which is between you and the Ameer? Why, when you were fighting the Ameer in the last Afghan War you found no insuperable obstacle in going to Afghanistan, but if you are going into Afghanistan to help the Ameer, is it not absurd to say that you will have any difficulty in passing through, the Ameer and you being at one in the matter? How much easier it will be than when you were going through those mountains to attack the Ameer, as you did in the last Afghan War. When the policy comes to be carefully examined and laid down, it will be found that the Under Secretary of State for Foreign 737 Affairs demands that, wherever we think it necessary, all the way up from Beloochistan to Chitral, we must, and we will, have access to the delimited Frontier. Is that what he wants?
§ *SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Well, there were so many claims I cannot bring them all to my recollection. I can only hope that upon examination the programme of the right hon. Gentleman will not seem as formidable as it certainly appeared to me to be when I listened to him. I confess when I heard his speech that it seemed to me to be an exaggeration of the Chitral policy, and to be far more general—almost universal—as to occupation of the Frontier. It seams to me that he went even beyond the rash declaration of the First Lord of the Treasury, that where a British soldier was once planted there he should remain. Well, now, Sir, all I have to say more is this, that in my opinion this war and this policy has had most fatal consequences. There is the cost of the war. It is Rx. four millions 10's of rupees levied upon the Indian people. I have seen an estimate of what this Forward policy, in the last 20 years, from the time of the invasion of Afghanistan, cost, and it is put at £70,000,000, in addition to the enormously increased annual cost of the Army that you have to maintain in India. But, Sir, it would be a very narrow view to confine your estimate of cost simply to the military estimates. What does it cost the people of India in diverting such numbers of their population from productive industry? What does it cost in the loss of animals necessary for the cultivation of the soil which has been used up for military purposes, and has become useless for the sustenance of the people? All that is a far more serious cost than the military cost. We have seen, unfortunately, year after year, in the financial accounts of the people of 738 India, the declaration that, in consequence of the straitness of their finances, they have been obliged to abandon works for the improvement of the people—railways, with protective works—and they have been obliged to call for contributions from the provinces also. All this you have imposed upon the people of India, and you were only now at the beginning of this ill-omened enterprise. I was sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that the Government had decided that Great Britain should make no contribution to this cost. That, in my opinion, is not a just nor a generous determination. There is another great evil which has befallen from this policy. I have heard from great Indian administrators that the absorption of the energies and the attention of the Indian Government in these Frontier campaigns and in this Frontier policy has been very injurious to the general administration of India. I am convinced that the Government cannot be unconscious of the deep anxiety, which this policy and its consequences have caused throughout the country. I am sure that they cannot, and they do not, shut their ears to the opinion of the great Indian authorities which are adverse to their policy in this matter. Upon this point I must again press the appeal made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Fife, that the country should know, as we know, what was the opinion of the Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjaub upon this Chitral advance; and, above all, that we should know the great and the deservedly valued authority of Sir Donald Stewart. I understand that the noble Lord has promised that we shall have them both.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA
No; and I gave my reasons. If I give Sir Donald Stewart's opinion on one side of the question, I must give Sir George White's and Sir Hy. Brackenbury's views on the other side.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA
It would be quite contrary to the public interest to give the confidential opinions of the Commander-in-Chief upon a matter of policy or administration.
§ *SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
That is not what we want. What we want is the opinion of the Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjaub upon the policy of fortifying this road and occupying Chitral. The noble Lord found no difficulty whatever in giving the opinion of the Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjaub on the question of Waziristan, but when his opinion is adverse to your Chitral policy you will not give it. We know what his opinion is, and why from this voluminous correspondence, which contains so many things that particular opinion is excluded, has never been explained. If, as I had hoped, and as I still believe, the lessons of the last six months have impressed upon everyone the errors which have led to these unfortunate results, I think then, we may confidently look to a better future; but, for us at least, whatever may be the division in the lobby to-night—(ironical cheers)—well, these things are determined, not by the majority of to-day, but by the experience of history. It is at all events our duty, who believe this to be an erroneous policy, to record our condemnation of the past, and to put also upon record our opinion of the principles which ought to govern your conduct in the future.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Right Hon. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I had certainly hoped that at the end of the Debate, if not earlier in our proceedings, we might have received from the Opposition some argument not founded on purely Party and polemical considerations; some views not levelled at the immediate advantages of the moment; some guidance on one of the most difficult problems with which the Indian Government has 740 to deal—the problem connected with our North-West Frontier. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman has completely shattered these expectations. It is quite true—and I rejoice to remember it—that the right hon. Gentleman did not go back upon some of the least creditable episodes in the controversy that has raged during the last six months on this subject, and that we have heard nothing from him in the nature of an attack upon Lord Elgin, nor even in the nature of an attack upon Her Majesty's present Government, as regards any breach of an honourable understanding. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having put aside altogether that part of the controversy, which ought, in my opinion, never to have been entered into by his colleagues, which has not reflected much credit upon our methods of conducting political controversy in this country, and which may now well be forgotten, and, if it be possible, be buried in perpetual oblivion. But the right hon. Gentleman, carried away by the same unfortunate inspiration, while he has spared the Viceroy of India, was quite unable to omit some reference to another great Indian official, Sir George White, the Commander-in-Chief. I do not know by what unhappy fate it comes about that the Opposition cannot avoid attacking, on the floor of this House or on the platform, the very men whom they themselves have placed in the most difficult and responsible situations which a British citizen can occupy in this Empire. Of Lord Elgin we have heard enough. Lord Elgin was a member of their Party, and appointed by themselves. Sir George White, I presume, being a soldier, has no politics, but he was their own appointment, their own selection, and therefore, as was perhaps to be expected, the right hon. Gentleman who spared Lord Elgin poured out all the vials of his indignation upon Sir George White. What was the head and front of Sir George White's offending? It appears that he made a speech in which, he used phrases, I am informed, 741 almost textually identical with those used in this House by Sir Robert Peel, as Prime Minister, when he was dealing with the annexation of Sind in 1844 Well, Sir, I don't know that it is very wise to make after-dinner speeches; perhaps the practice is not specially to be commended: but if we none of us do worse than quote Sir Robert Peel's utterances, as Prime Minister, in this House, I do not know that we can have much said against us, either now, or by posterity. Sir, there is only one other point, and that is a little outside the main course of this controversy to which I need refer. It relates to a small passage of arms that occurred earlier in the evening, during the most brilliant and able speech of my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, with regard to a certain letter from the Ameer of Afghanistan, as to complaints that had been made to him by certain tribes. The Ameer says that he saw some of these tribesmen, and that they complained of the British Government because the British Government began to make roads in their country and subsequently asked them for revenue and inflicted fines. The right hon. Gentle man, who thinks that the Ameer of Afghanistan is speaking to this Amendment, has got it into his head that these men belong to the particular tribes who rose up in the neighbourhood of the road which leads to Chitral. There is not only no evidence of that fact, but every possibility is against it; and, in addition to every probablity, there is evidence to the contrary effect. What is it that these men complain of? They complain of three things. They complain that the British Government began to make roads, that they subsequently asked for revenue, and that they inflicted fines. Now, these things are true of the tribes, who, as we have reason to believe, did go to the Ameer and make their complaints. They are not true of the tribes on the border of the road between Peshawar and Chitral. But, 742 though it is true that we did make roads through their country, it is not true—and there is no shadow of foundation for the suggestion that it is true—that we either asked them for revenue or inflicted fines upon them. These are facts which may be alleged with regard to the tribes on the Samara mountains, but they are not true of other tribes; and, therefore, however interesting the observation may be, and however much it may afford hostile commentary on the policy of this country towards the tribes on the Frontier between India and Aghanistan, it has no relation whatever, direct or indirect, to the controversy whether we should or should not abandon Chitral, or whether we should or should not maintain a road between our own Frontier and that distant Dependency. Now, Sir, let me go very shortly into the really vital and essential part of the controversy, to which it is true the right hon. Gentleman made occasional allusions, but on which, I venture to say, he has given the House no definite or distinct light whatever. Nobody denies that the problem which meets us on the North-West Frontier of India is a problem of exceeding complexity and difficulty. Nobody denies that, whatever solution you adopt, you cannot avoid complications—you cannot avoid difficulties. Nor can you avoid, in all probability, occasional expeditions of a punitive character, and wars small or great, of the unsatisfactory character of that which occupied the last six months of last year. I confess that when I listened to the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, the only conclusion that I could draw from their speeches was that, if they could have their way, they would interpret the words, "Independence of the tribes," in such a manner as would preclude us from making any road through any tribal country, or from having any influence over any tribes, or endeavouring in any way to bring these independent communities in any sense within the sphere of British influence. I should like to know whether 743 that is the view of the right hon. Gentleman or not. Is that the conclusion that we are to draw from his speeches? If so, I venture to say that is a policy impossible to carry out, a policy absolutely inconsistent with our Treaty engagements, and a policy which, if we attempted to carry it out, would not relieve us from the necessity of these punitive expeditions. It is also absolutely inconsistent with the policy laid down by their own colleagues, the right hon. Gentleman, who sits next to my right hon. Friend (Sir H. H. Fowler) and Lord Kimberley, who was also Secretary of State in the late Government, and who made a distinct declaration on the subject. In the first place it will be admitted that we must protect our own Frontier. It will be admitted that when our rule is extended, when we police, and rule, and tax, certain populations on our North-West Frontier, we are bound to see that those populations are protected from predatory inroads. The right hon. Gentleman has quoted Lord Lawrence's opinion of these tribes (I do not mean to refer to that now), but he has not quoted Lord Lawrence's opinion of those tribes, nor has he called attention to the policy which was pursued in Lord Lawrence's time, before Lord Lawrence's time, and subsequently to Lord Lawrence's time, in dealing with the predatory incursions of these tribes. My noble Friend said they were hereditary robbers. I am a lover of mild phrases. I say that their views of property and homicide are different from the views that prevail in this House, and there is no doubt whatever that, however they may develop and civilise in the future, at the present time there will always be these outbreaks from their mountain passes into districts—for the policing, for the safety of which, we are directly responsible—which cannot be left unpunished, and which, when they occur, can only be punished by such expeditions as those we have been engaged in during the last few months, and such as every 744 Indian Government under every British Government in turn has had to bear the cost of for generations past. If that be admitted, and I think it will not be denied, there is a second reason, which is denied by some Gentleman opposite, but which I am sure the House, on reflection, will feel to be of overwhelming weight. In my judgment, we have made ourselves responsible by the Durand Agreement, at all events to this extent, that we cannot allow the Ameer of Afghanistan to have his peaceful subjects attacked by those who live upon oar side of the Durand Border. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife and the Leader of the Opposition have committed themselves to the astonishing proposition that the Durand Agreement is of a purely negative character—that it prevents the Ameer from doing anything on our side of the line, but requires us to do nothing upon the same side of the line. I would venture to point out, in the first place, that that is intrinsically absurd. The Ameer has the right to punish, or get punished, those who make inroads upon his dominions. If those persons live upon our side of the line, who is to punish them? Are we to permit the Ameer to make punitive inroads into our side of the Durand line? If we are to do that, how is the Durand line to produce that clearness of relation between us and the Ameer, which is to prevent all complications, all controversies, and all quarrels arising between that potentate and ourselves? If, on the other hand, we are not to permit him to send effective punitive expeditions to our side of the line, are we not compelled ourselves to do that amount of policing which will, at all events, prevent our friendly neighbour from suffering from those whom we have deliberately decided he is not to touch? That is what I may call the broad political argument to which no answer has been given. But I do not wish to put it simply upon the basis of abstract argument. I say that was the policy 745 deliberately assented to by Lord Kimberley, and by the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary for India. If anybody will refer to the right hon. Gentleman's dispatch of the 24th August, 1894, it will be seen that he says, in answer to the Indian Government—I concur with you that recourse to punitive expeditions from a distant base would in the long run prove far more expensive, and that in the existing state of our relations with Afghanistan and with the tribesI hope the House will mark these following words—it is essential that your Government should be in a position to maintain, if necessary, an effective control over Waziristan.I want to know how Waziristan differs from any other Frontier tribe which lies between us and the Durand line over the whole distance from Baluchistan to the north of Chitral. The right hon. Gentleman says our relations with Afghanistan require us to maintain, if necessary, an effective control over Waziristan. Does that mean that, in his opinion, we are interfering with the independence of those tribes or not? Let us know definitely what that means. If an effective control in that sense is inconsistent with the independence of the tribes, then the right hon. Gentlemen opposite were the first to interfere with those tribes. If that effective control is not inconsistent with the independence of the tribes, then, I ask, what right have they to make these attacks upon us, as if we, and we alone, were those who desired to interfere with these tribal organisations? But it is not the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State for India alone who expressed these views. I refer to the other Indian Secretary who held office during the late Government. If the House will look at the Blue Book just laid they will find the interpretation of the Durand Agreement by the Indian Government, which was subse- 746 quently assented to by the English Government. Listen to what the Indian Government say—By the Durand Agreement we have assumed a measure of responsibility for the peace of the Afghan border which has not hitherto been ours, and which, under present arrangements, we have no adequate means of discharging. We understand that Her Majesty's Government concur in this view. Lord Kimberley, writing on this subject, approved of our statement of policy to the effect that, while we emphatically repudiated all intention, of annexing tribal territory, we desired to bring the tribes whom this settlement concerns further within our influence.How about the negative character of the Durand Agreement? Sir, the right hon. Gentleman assents to that proposition. How either he or the late Secretary of State can reconcile this quotation with their view of the Durand Agreement I am utterly baffled to explain; and I venture to think that hon. Members who have listened to the considerations I have laid before them, on whichever side of the House they sit, will be as much puzzled as I am. So much for the second argument. What is the third? It is that, just as we are obliged—and the right hon. Gentleman opposite has admitted that we are obliged—to have some regard for the peace of what I may call the internal Frontier of Afghanistan—the Frontier facing our Indian Empire—so we are bound by Treaty with the Ruler of that country to protect his external Frontier. The right hon. Gentleman has told us, while admitting the obligation, that it is an obligation which can easily be fulfilled, whatever attitude the tribes may take up, whenever and wherever necessity may arise. I cannot conceive that the right hon. Gentleman has made himself master of the history of the last Afghan War. I cannot conceive that he really has made himself acquainted with, what our relations were with the tribes subsisting at that time, 747 or the enormous difficulty which attaches to sending any large body of troops through these disorganised districts, a difficulty which will always exist until, in the language of the late Secretary of State, we have brought these tribes more within our influence than they are at present. There is a fourth reason, which is that we are bound to maintain these trade routes. I admit that the argument about trade does not apply to the road to Chitral. Practically, we may say little or no commerce is carried on down this road. But when you are discussing the question whether it is or is not an interfering with tribal rights by making a road through a territory, you must remember that there are other roads besides the road leading from Peshawar to Chitral; there are roads which we are absolutely bound by every consideration of public policy and honour to keep open; and if the keeping open of those roads is not inconsistent, as we believe it is not inconsistent, with leaving to those tribes their independence and internal organisation, I cannot see that what is true of the Khyber, the Bolan, and other passes is less true of the road between Peshawar and Chitral, which has given rise to so much superfluous and unnecessary controversy. There is a fifth argument, which weighs greatly with me, but which, perhaps, does not weigh so much with the right hon. Gentleman opposite; at all events, it is an argument to which they have not yet committed themselves in any of their published despatches or speeches. I have heard it stated in this House, and out of it, that you cannot have a better safeguard for the Indian Frontier than these independent tribes who now lie between us and Afghanistan, and we are told—and told constantly—that there can be no greater folly than attempting to influence the people of those regions, because at the first suggestion of danger they would ally themselves with our enemies on the Frontier. Well, Sir, the 748 history of India does not bear out that statement, and I do not believe that anyone who has studied the question could seriously hold that view. The invaders of India have always found, and I think always might find, safe entrance into the country through the great passes which lead from Afghanistan to the valley of the Indus. There is no reason why they should come into conflict with the tribes that border these roads, for they have at their disposal an irresistible bribe with which to bring these tribes round to their side as an addition to their strength. If you can conceive for a moment a hostile force massed on the wide plateaux lying beyond these passes, are you so simple-minded as to suppose that they would find in these Afridis or other Pathan tribes any obstacle to their advance into the heart of India? On the contrary, these people whom you by hypothesis have neglected, have left entirely to their own devices, except with occasional chastisements inflicted for some border outrage—do you think these men would be bound either in their own opinion or of anybody else to help you? Do you think they would not act with your invaders? Of course, it is manifest that unless you control them, not by interference with their tribal usages, not touching any of their habits, any of their political constitutions or religious usages to which they are attached, but by the influence of your officers, unless you can attach them to your cause, they will, without doubt, join your opponents.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
It is apparent, Sir, that even the hon. Member for Donegal sees the force of that. It is the first, and perhaps the last, time in my life that I have succeeded in driving home to him the force of any argument I have advanced, and where I have succeeded with him I am certain I have failed nowhere else. If these tribes are left entirely to their own devices, untouched by your civilisation, except in so far as 749 your civilisation shows itself in the shape of Maxim guns and punitive expeditions, depend upon it these men will, in the hour of danger, be found, not in your ranks, but in the ranks of your opponents, and not adding to your strength, but adding to the strength of your opponents. Now, Sir, I have enumerated five reasons, to which I do not think any answer can be given, why the policy suggested rather than stated by the right hon. Gentlemen, the Leader of the Opposition and the late Home Secretary cannot be adopted. The policy which we suggest is the policy of the late Secretary for India, and the noble Lord who preceded him in office. They have entertained none of the fantastic notions which the right hon. Gentlemen opposite appear to cherish. They differ from us, indeed, upon the question of Chitral, but that question has not been touched upon by the Leader of the Opposition, and I have not felt it my duty to deal with it to-night. But, on the broad question that you cannot leave these tribes alone to their own devices, I claim the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State as holding the same views as those who sit on these benches. The division in opinion between many gentlemen in this House is not as to whether we should interfere with the tribal customs or prejudices. On that point we are all agreed. There is not a man in this House who differs upon that. Where we differ is as to the policy of absolute abstention, except by means of punitive expeditions, or the modified form of control, of influence, which Lord Kimberley and the late Secretary for India have alike recommended. I do not pretend that that policy is without difficulties. I do not hold out to the House the slightest hope or expectation that we can expect to avoid complications upon this North-West Frontier. Complications have not been avoided by our predecessors; they have not been avoided by ourselves, and they will not be avoided by our successors. But I do look forward to the time when the task which has been so successfully 750 accomplished among the tribes to the south and to the north of this disturbed district may gradually, slowly, cautiously, but not unsuccessfully, be extended further and further among these border tribes. I do not suppose I can interpret the Amendment now before the House, ambiguous as it is, as being in support of that policy; but I am convinced that it is a policy which the majority of the House, certainly which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean and I think others on that side hold as firmly as we do—as firmly, I believe, as the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary for India holds it. But, after all, this Amendment has not been framed with a view to aiding Her Majesty's Government to form a rational and hopeful method of dealing with these Frontier difficulties. What is the genesis and origin of the present Amendment? Is it not manifest on the face of the Amendment itself. Is it not doubly manifest from the speeches by which it has been supported, that it owes its origin to two sources? The first source is the irritation with which right hon. Gentlemen opposite saw, or thought they saw, that their policy of 1895 had been reversed by their successors in office. Again and again it has been suggested that, drunk with victory, we came to the consideration of this question, determined, at all costs, and at any sacrifice of public policy, to reverse the conclusions at which our predecessors had arrived. I can assure the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the House, that a less historical account of what occurred could not well be imagined. In the first place, their policy was not a settled or concluded policy at all. The situation in which they had left the question was this: They had told the Indian Government that they meant to leave Chitral, and they requested that Government to suggest a general plan by which that object could be carried out. Before that day arrived, and certainly before that plan could be considered, the stroke of fate fell, and right hon. Gentlemen oppo- 751 site never had a chance of considering the necessary alternative to their decision. We, therefore, came into an uncompleted policy. We had to consider not merely the decision of the right hon. Gentlemen to leave Chitral, but the alternative which the Indian Government had suggested to that policy, and it was on the balance of these two things, and other considerations, that we reluctantly came to the conclusion that the original decision of right hon. Gentlemen opposite had to be abandoned. And I may say that if there is a Party which ought to look with tolerance upon the reversal of Indian Frontier policy by a succeeding Government, it is that represented by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They are proud, they boast, of having reversed Lord Beaconsfield's policy in 1880, a reversal which turned out to be largely a reversal in name, and not in fact, for they found themselves face to face with the realities of the situation, and bound to accept at least nine-tenths of that policy; but at all events they boasted that they were reversing it. Well, it is not for them to complain of a similar course being taken by their successors, still less where those successors have not been guilty of any such drastic reversal as they themselves performed. But there is another origin of this Amendment. Evidently it was felt that the speeches in the autumn required to be backed up by action in this House. Could the platform records have been expunged, could the memories of men have been cleared of these incessantly recurring Party attacks upon one particular fragment of this Frontier policy, we never should have seen this Amendment at all. It is not intended to help to a decision of this question. It is not designed or framed to assist this or any other Government to a rational solution of these great difficulties, but I venture to hope that, however little the Amendment may have been framed with that object, at all events some of the speeches which have been delivered will tend to show the class of 752 difficulties with which we have to deal, and may help those who are less influenced for the moment by Party considerations, and more influenced by the great responsibilities of Empire, to deal in future in a moderate, in a conciliatory, and in a Statesmanlike manner with what is, perhaps, the greatest perennial difficulty with which our Indian Empire has ever had to deal.
§ The House divided: Ayes 208; Noes 311.
§ Main Question again proposed. It being twelve of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.