§ MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
To ask the Secretary of State for India, the work of the Seistan Commission having terminated on the return to Quetta a month ago of the Chief Commissioner, Colonel MacMahon, with his surveyors and escorts, can a communication be made, in either House, before closing the session,
§ (Answered by Mr. Austen Chamberlain.)
§ describing the objects of this Mission and its results so far obtained, together with a statement of sums expended up to date, with estimate of total and prospective annual cost of arrangements made pursuant to the Mission's explorations in those desert regions, through which a railway has been pushed beyond Nushki; and also list of casualties from drought and 1477 disease during making of the railway and since despatch of the Mission two years ago.
§ (Answered by Mr. Secretary Brodrick.) The object of the Mission to Seistan was the settlement, in accordance with the 6th Article of the Treaty with Persia of 1857, of disputes which had arisen between the Persians and Afghans as to their respective rights to the waters of the Helmund River. Colonel MacMahon's award has been delivered to the two Governments concerned, but it would be undesirable to make any detailed statement on the subject till the award has been formally accepted by the two Governments concerned. The question of the Perso-Baluch boundary, to which my predecessor referred in his reply to the hon. Member on the 3rd March, 1903† has been settled with the Persian Government without demarcation. Up to the end of 1904–5 the expenditure on the Mission had amounted to about twenty-six lakhs, and about seven lakhs (Rs. 6,88,000) were provided in the Budget of the current year for the same purpose. I may add that the extension of the railway from Quetta to Nushki, beyond which place no extension is either under construction or in contemplation, had no connection with the objects of the Mission. The estimated cost of the line is about seventy lakhs. I have no information as to the number of deaths from drought or disease, either amongst those connected with the Mission or amongst the labourers employed upon the railway.