HC Deb 26 November 1914 vol 68 cc1351-61
The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Charles Roberts)

I beg to move, That, His Majesty having directed military forces charged upon the revenues of India to be dispatched out of India for service in the War in which this country is engaged, this House consents that the ordinary pay and other ordinary charges of any troops so dispatched, or that may be so dispatched during the continuance of the War, as well as the ordinary charges of any vessels belonging to the Government of India that may be employed in these expeditions which would have been charged upon the resources of India if such troops or vessels had remained in that country or seas adjacent, shall continue to be so chargeable provided that, if it shall be necessary to replace the troops or vessels so withdrawn by other vessels or forces, then the expense of raising, maintaining, and providing such vessels and forces shall be repaid out of any moneys which may be provided by Parliament for the purposes of the said expeditions. Two months ago the Prime Minister moved a Motion in this House relating to the dispatch of the Indian forces to Europe. Under it the House of Commons gave its assent to the payment from Indian revenues of the ordinary charges of a force of British and Indian troops to be dispatched to Europe for service during the present War. That Resolution, however, did not sanction the application of Indian revenues to defray the cost of military operations outside India in non-European areas of the War, and it is therefore necessary to pass the present Supplementary Resolution, which gives a general assent to the contribution which India wishes to make to the expenses of the Indian forces employed in any of the theatres of War, wherever they may be. It was not an oversight that the original Resolution did not cover the whole ground. Parliament has rightly surrounded with constitutional safeguards the application of Indian revenues to pay the cost of Indian expeditions outside the confines of India except in cases of invasion or unforeseen sudden emergency, and therefore it has been thought necessary to get the assent of both Houses of Parliament to meet the gap which is now proposed to be covered.

I ought to add one word as to the finance of this proposal. As has been already explained, India does not seek to make any profit or saving out of the absence of the troops which she would otherwise have to pay for if they remained in Indian cantonments. Therefore it has been agreed, with the unanimous consent of the Legislative Council, that Indian revenues should continue to bear the normal expenses which they would have had to bear if the War had not taken place, while this country pays the extraordinary expenses involved in the dispatch of troops to the theatre of War. That was the financial arrangement under the previous Resolution. It is proposed to follow that precedent in the present Supplementary Resolution, but it must be understood that it is not a hard and fast rule, but is liable to subsequent modification by agreement, and with the assent of Parliament, according to the nature of the operations in which the Indian troops may be engaged. In any case, we have warmly to recognise the substantial help which is being afforded to the Empire by the appearance of Indian troops at a great number of points in a battle line which extends from Tsingtau to La Bassée across the breadth of three Continents.

So much for the purely technical and formal aspect of this Motion. But I was asked a little while ago to explain the absence of the customary Budget statement in reference to Indian finances, and I should like to take this opportunity of making it plain that the postponement was not due to any inattention or indifference to Indian questions. Indeed, I think there never was a time when the interest in Indian questions and the feeling? of goodwill between England and India was more widespread or more strong than at present. All the documents required by Statute have been presented to Members of the House of Commons, but, just as our own domestic discussions have had to be postponed, so the discussion on some Indian points had better be taken at a later date. But I do not think they will suffer by the delay, and I hope that circumstances may admit that, later on in the present Session, the customary Budget discussion on Indian affairs will take place. I should like also to take this opportunity of mentioning that there have been some complaints in the papers, both here and in India, as to the meagre details which have been given of the work of the Indian troops. It is known, of course, that they have taken part in the reduction of Tsingtau, in the rapid and successful occupation of Fao and Basra, in the Persian Gulf; they are in force in Egypt, they took part in the landing at Shaik Said, and, sharing the vicissitudes of war, they were present at an attack against great odds, in East Africa. Of course, the main force is in France, taking part in battles which are taking even longer to decide than the famous battle of the great Indian epic, which lasted eighteen days before it was concluded. We all agree that it is exceptionally necessary in the case of India that full details of the work of the Indian troops should be given, and arrangements have been made towards that end. There are official reporters who send summaries of the doings of the Indian troops, which are telegraphed to India, and we plead with the Military Censor to give us as much information as military necessities will allow. On the other hand, everyone recognises that ever since the debacle at Sedan, which was undoubtedly facilitated by the publication of news in the London newspapers, the military censorship in all countries grows stricter and stricter. It is, of course, a strain on our natural anxieties, but we are endeavouring to give as much news as we can.

There is also one special disadvantage in reference to the Indian troops. The newspaper accounts have mainly referred to gallant behaviour on the part of the Sikhs and Gurkhas, and they fully deserve all the recognition which they have obtained. But there are other Indian races who are represented—Pathans, Jats, Dogras, Mussulman Punjabis, and others—whose doings have been somewhat overlooked. Of the actual exploits of the troops the official reports, private letters and the accounts of eye-witnesses all tell the same story. There is no need to speak of the quality of the British units in the Indian Army, or of the very gallant leadership of the officers with the Indian troops, but the Indian troops themselves have by all accounts acquitted themselves in accordance with the expectations of those who best know their courage and training. They very soon adapted themselves to conditions of fighting which are as novel to them as to the British troops. They have stood the shell fire steadily, and when the time comes to give the details of their action in the recent fighting it will be, I am sure, a record of which both India and England will be proud. I hope I may also be allowed to bear testimony to the energy of the Viceroy during the outbreak of this War. The varied expeditions which have been dispatched from India show the energy which he has displayed in the midst of personal griefs and anxieties, for the organisation of the Lady Hardinge Hospital in this country reminds us of a sorrow which is still recent, and the House knows that his son, on whom the D.S.O. has been conferred, has been severely wounded. We have to express our sincere sympathy and our admiration for the energy with which the resources of India have been marshalled in the service of the Empire. Perhaps I may also be allowed to bear testimony to the invaluable services of the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Beauchamp Duff, and to express also our great sympathy with him in the loss which he has sustained in the death of his son in the War.

I hope the House wall bear with me also if I say a word or two about the loyalty which India has displayed during the dispatch of these expeditions. It is always difficult, at a distance from any country, to be sure that one gauges and interprets rightly the feeling of that country, but I think one distinguishes certain different notes as one reads the mass of telegrams, resolutions, manifestos, speeches and newspaper articles in which Indian opinion has expressed itself. It is quite impossible to summarise them, but I think one notes first the fighting spirit of many of the Ruling Chiefs who at once dispatched telegrams pleading in urgent and insistent terms their personal claim to serve the King-Emperor upon the battlefield. I quote one picturesque phrase which struck me in one telegram. It ran as follows:— The noise of battle is lulling music to Rajput blood. 4.0 P.M.

That is the spirit of the Maharajahs who are at the front—the veteran Sir Pretab Singh and his young nephew, and the Maharajahs of Bikanir and Kishengarh. Will the House allow me to quote a telegram which the Maharajah of Bikanirsent:— I and my troops are ready and prepared to go at once to any place, either in Europe or India, or wherever services in got be usefully employed in the interest of safety, honour, and welfare of our Sovereign and his Dominions. Your Excellency knows the traditions of the Rathor Bika Rajputs. We long to be early at the front, but whether my troops can be used at present or not, I would earnestly ask your Excellency at least to give me myself an opportunity for that personal military service of the King-Emperor and the Empire which is my highest ambition as a Rathor Chief and as a member of His Imperial Majesty's Staff. The Maharajah of Bikanir has had his wish. He is in France at the front, and his Camel Corps has been doing very useful service in the peninsula of Sinai. Might I add one other telegram? This was sent by the Nizam of Hyderabad, the ruler of a Mahomedan State, who said:— At this crisis I beg that your Excellency will lay before His Majesty the King-Emperor the assurance that my heart beats at one with that of all the loyal people of Great Britain and her Dominions throughout the world, and that my sword and the whole resources of my State are His Majesty's to command for England and the Empire. It is very difficult to acknowledge adequately all the princely munificence of the ruling chiefs in connection with the expedition. The generosity of the Maharajah of Jaipur and that of the Maharajah of Gwalior may be mentioned as instances. The Maharajah of Gwalior, besides princely contributions to every fund started in England or India, running into many thousands of pounds, organised, jointly with the Begum of Bhopal, a hospital ship and has given a large contribution of horses. His latest munificent gift is a fully equipped motor ambulance fleet. Ill-health alone, to his grievous disappointment, has prevented him from taking the field in person.

There is a wave of loyalty, instinctive and emotional loyalty, which has swept over the people of India. But it would be unfair not to recognise that besides this, there is among the Indian educated classes a loyalty based on reason and the recognition of facts. It is at times less warmly expressed, but it is none the less substantial. It is sensible of the undeniable benefits conferred by British rule. It regards—not to put the case too high—the present regime as the best working arrangement for India. It is satisfied that within the framework of the Empire legitimate hopes and aspirations can in due time be met. I think also that this more sober sentiment finds expression also among those Moslems who cannot but feel the strain on their religious sympathies imposed by the insensate folly of Turkey's attack upon the British Empire. Men like the Nizam of Hyderabad or the Aga Khan have been unhesitating in the advice they have given to those with whom their views naturally carry weight. Indian Moslems have, I believe, made up their minds that their secular allegiance is due to the King-Emperor. They know that their religion obtains the amplest toleration and respect in the British Empire, and that the idea that the present War is a religious war is an absurdity. The matter is perhaps summed up in the remark of a Mussulman Indian:— Why should anyone question the loyalty of India? Is it not our Empire too? What is happening before our eyes does, at all events, vindicate the policy that has been adopted and is being worked out in India—the policy of enlisting the co-operation of Indians in the work of government. There is no finality in the task of adjusting the machinery of government to Indian conditions and to the new forces that our own action has evoked. For the time being, as everyone recognises, administrative and constitutional problems are necessarily in abeyance, but I wish to take this opportunity of announcing a change in the Constitution of one of the provinces which was in course of settlement before the outbreak of the War. It is not a change of a very far-reaching character, and the Secretary of State and the Viceroy see no reason in the existence of the War to postpone the announcement. The Secretary of State has asked me to state that he has approved the proposal of the Governor-General in Council to create a small Council in the United Provinces to assist the Lieutenant-Governor in the executive government of the province. A draft of the necessary Proclamation will be laid in due course before Parliament. This will give to the United Provinces a machinery of government similar to that which obtains in the larger provinces of India. It will, incidentally, enable an Indian to serve as a member of the highest Executive Council in the province. I should add that the establishment of the council has the support of the Viceroy and of the Lieutenant-Governor. For the rest, it is premature to attempt to anticipate the consequences that may follow from this striking and historic event—the participation of India in force in the World-War of the Empire. The results will not be fully seen until the War is over. But it is clear that India claims to be not a mere dependent of but a partner in the Empire, and her partnership with us in spirit and on the battlefields cannot but alter the angle from which we shall all henceforward look at the problems of the government of India.

I think I may call the attention of the House of Commons to one possible illustration of this change in the point of view. It must be a source of pride and satisfaction to India that she has sent the first of the great contingents from the Over-Seas Dominions into the European theatre of War, and that one of her brave soldiers, if the newspaper statements are correct, has been recommended for the coveted distinction of the Victoria Cross. The Indian Armies are soon to be followed by troops from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. I need not allude to points of friction that have existed between India and some other parts of the Empire, though I am glad to remember that the difficulties in South Africa have been overcome. But I should wish to refer to the summary of the Viceroy's speech in the Legislative Council during the Debate on the dispatch of the troops a few weeks ago. He said:— There is nothing like comradeship in arms and joint participation in the dangers and hardships of war to level distinctions, inspire mutual respect, and foster friendship. He added:— I cannot help feeling that as a consequence better relations will be promoted amongst the component parts of the British Empire. Many misunderstandings will be removed and outstanding grievances will be settled in an amicable and generous manner. In this sense, out of evil good may come to India, and this is the desire of us all. I am sure that that wish is shared also by the Secretary of State and will be echoed in the House of Commons. In the atmosphere of friendship and goodwill which unites India and England to-day there is surely a bright hope for the future. India must feel that East and West are engaged in a military partnership which, as we believe, is both for the benefit of the Indian peoples and for the Empire as a whole, and I cannot but trust that the common endeavours of these days will enable India to realise that she is occupying, and is destined to occupy, a place in our free Empire worthy alike of her ancient civilisation and thought, of the valour of her fighting races, and of the patriotism of her sons.


The willingness of India to continue to shoulder the financial burdens, the cost of the Military Forces which are fighting for the King-Emperor in many quarters of the world is only characteristic of her splendid and unswerving loyalty, and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for India has given full recognition to it. It is only right that we in our turn should bear the cost—and I am sure we shall not grudge it—of the troops that we send to India to take their place. The hon. Gentleman has paid an eloquent and well-merited tribute to the Indian troops and to the Indian native princes, and I have risen at the request of my right hon. Friend to say how closely we associate ourselves with what has fallen from the hon. Gentleman. He has spoken of the valuable assistance which the Indian troops have been giving on the battlefields of Europe, of their valour and their unfailing courage. None of us ever doubted it, because we knew their history, because we knew that as fighting men there are no better fighters in the world, and in spite of the withering influence of the censorship, we have been able to read something of the prowess of the Sikhs and Gurkhas, and other of the native troops in Europe.

I was glad to hear the hon. Gentleman remind us—which many of us do not forget—that glorious as are the deeds of the Sikhs and Gurkhas, those feats of courage are emulated by the representatives of many other native races who are serving with the Indian troops. I am not going to attempt to enumerate them, lest I should omit even one that was worthy of honourable mention, but I will only say—and this applies to all of them—that they came from the land of their birth, which few of them had ever left before, inspired by the deepest devotion and loyalty, to fight for the Empire. The conditions and circumstances in which they are called upon to fight are wholly new and wholly strange to them, but they have changed their skies only and not their spirit. The fighting men of the Indian Empire, remembering the splendid history of their fathers, have by their valour, by their stedfastness, by their endurance, proved themselves worthy of their ancient and honourable traditions. For them as for us, for their sons as for ours, the highest honour to which any man can attain is to do his duty in the service of the King, laying down his life if necessary. They have declared their pride in being allowed to fight for the Empire, and this, the Mother of the Empire, may well declare her pride in them.

Colonel YATE

May I, as an old Indian officer, be also permitted to associate myself with what has been said by the Under-Secretary of State for India. May I also say, how proud and rejoiced I am to see Indian soldiers now serving in all parts of the world, and to see them taking a fuller and fuller share day by day in all our Imperial burdens. I would like to congratulate the Under-Secretary of State on his references to the valour and fighting qualities of the Indian Army. We have seen Indian troops fighting now in all parts of the world. We saw the other day that they took an active part in conjunction with the Japanese in capturing Kiaochau, in China, from the Germans. We see them defending our possessions in East Africa from the attacks of the Germans in that part of the world. They have captured Fau and Bassarah at the head of the Persian Gulf, and the Bikanir Camel Corps only the other day fought a successful action against the Turkish forces advancing on Egypt. Not only the Regular regiments of the Indian Army are fighting for us all over the world, but there are as well other regiments, known in India as the Imperial Service troops, which belong to Native States in India, and which are joined with us in all these enterprises. No complete list of these Imperial Service troops has yet been published, but we know that the Jodhpur Lancers, the Haidarabad Lancers, and regiments from various other Indian States are serving in France and Belgium, in addition to the Bikanir Camel Corps in Egypt, and the Kashmir Rifles in East Africa. The eagerness with which all the Indian Rulers offered the services of their various regiments has been already touched upon by the Secretary of State for India. The one point necessary for us to see to in this connection is that these Imperial Service troops belonging to the Native States of India are provided with properly educated and trained officers, so that they may be able to take their place in line with the Regular regiments of the Indian Army on terms of perfect equality.

I am glad to say that the Imperial Cadet Corps, which was founded by Lord Curzon some years ago, has been a great step in advance in opening up a military career for so many of the young aristocracy of India who desire it. I may call this institution the "Sandhurst" of India. This Cadet Corps will, I hope, as time goes on be greatly enlarged and will thus be able to provide a full and constant supply of young officers for these Imperial Service regiments. All cadets in this Imperial Cadet Corps should, I think, be placed on the same footing as cadets from Sandhurst in England, and should be granted commissions as lieutenants and captains in a similar way, and take rank with them equally when on service with them. I know that it will take a considerable time to find a full supply of officers to fill all the Imperial Service regiments but the work will be taken in hand, I hope, without delay so that these officers may be able to serve side by side with our own officers on terms of perfect equality. Some 250 years ago in the time of the Emperor Aurungzeb, the Maharajah of Jodhpur, led his victorious Rajputs to Kabul; at that time you may say the furthermost limit of the Indian political horizon. To-day, under the ægis of the British Empire, you see the present Maharajah of Jodhpur, with that gallant uncle of his, the Veteran Maharajah Sir Pertab Singh, together with the Maharajahs of Kishengarh and Bikamir, and many other Chiefs, leading their Rajputs to serve with us in France and Belgium. And I hope that the day is not far distant when those Chiefs will lead their Rajputs victorious to Berlin. There is one point which I should like to mention in connection with the Indian Army. I am not sure whether the Government have been able to supply a proper reserve of British officers for the Regular regiments of the Indian Army. We see an enormous loss of officers day by day. We see what a necessity there is to have a large reserve, and I would ask the Under-Secretary to see that the Government of India should take up this question in all seriousness. You cannot post officers to Indian regiments without a knowledge of the language and customs of India, as can be done from the Officers' Training Corps to regiments in England, and I trust that opportunity will be taken without delay to try to secure an adequate reserve of officers for the Army in India.


I only rise to ask the Under-Secretary if he will tell us whether any provision has been made for assistance to relatives and friends of Indian soldiers on lines similar to those arranged in the case of our own troops, or whether any arrangement has been made for pensions in the event of their being killed. I would ask, if such arrangements have been made, whether the expense is being borne by the Indian Government or as part of the grant that has been made. I do not know whether he will be in a position to answer the question now. If not, I shall put it down.


Perhaps the hon. Member will put the question down. I have not got the full details in my mind.

Question put, and agreed to.