§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH,
in rising to ask the Prime Minister a Question as to the progress of the negotiations with the Russian Government regarding the delimitation of the Afghan Frontier, and especially as to the matter of the Zulfikar Pass and the position of Maruchak and Penjdeh; also, what are the terms of the agreement concluded between the Viceroy of India and the Ameer of Afghanistan at the Durbar at Rawul Pindi; whether those terms have been subjected to any modification or amendment by Her Majesty's present Government; and, whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to occupy the Pishin Valley or any other strategical positions within the dominions of the Ameer with a force of observation this autumn? said, he would not enter into any detailed remarks on that occasion, neither did he wish to press for any statement with regard to the negotiations which might in any way tend to complicate the situation, or be inconvenient as regards the interests of the public. But the Session was drawing to a close, and very great interest was felt throughout the country in the state of these negotiations. Some short time ago the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) made a statement in the House, and it was clear as far as it went. As he (the Duke of Marlborough) understood it, the noble Marquess was not prepared to recommend any novel course. They had been informed that there was to be an arbitration, and that something was to be referred to somebody; but nothing was stated in a definite form, and now they were given to understand that that was to lapse, and that the only question was a delimitation of Frontier, which involved only a few miles of territory 500 miles from their Indian Possessions. The only question left in abeyance, which neither the late Government nor the present Government had communicated their opinion upon, was the most important of all—it was what was the 1029 agreement which was arrived at between the Viceroy of India and the Ameer as to the defence of Afghanistan? These questions in regard to the Frontier were of great importance, and the trade of the country was more or less influenced by the prolonged tension at which the public mind was being kept with respect to them; and he hoped the noble Marquess would be able to make some statement which would tend to relieve the public anxiety. In his opinion, it was perfectly useless for this country to enter into negotiations with the Government of Russia with regard to territory which was 500 miles from their Indian Frontier unless they were prepared to come to an agreement with the Ameer as to the means they were to have of overlooking and watching that Frontier. It had been stated that the subsidy to the Ameer had been increased to £250,000 annually. If they were to give so large a subsidy, there should be some clear understanding of what were to be their relative responsibilities. If there was to be a recurrence of disturbances on the delimitation of Frontier like those which had already occurred at Penjdeh, they could never tell at what moment this country might be drawn into European difficulties without having anyone but themselves to blame in the matter.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I will take the various heads of the noble Duke's Question in turn, and will give to them such answer as I can. In the first place, the noble Duke asks me—As to the progress of the negotiations with the Russian Government regarding the delimitation of the Afghan Frontier, and especially as to the matter of the Zulfikar Pass and the position of Maruchak and Pendjeh?Maruchak remains with Afghanistan, and Penjdeh remains with Russia. So much was agreed to by the late Government, and nothing has been suggested on either side to disturb that agreement since. With respect to the Zulfikar Pass, I cannot say that matters are in a very different position from what they were when the present Government took Office. Our contention, as the noble Duke is aware, is that the Zulfikar Pass was promised to Afghanistan, and that, on the strength of that promise, the Viceroy of India promised the Ameer should have it. We held ourselves bound by that promise, and we hold Russia bound by that promise also. I 1030 can state exactly what our contention is, and have done so; but I do not feel it would be equally proper for me to state what the contention of Russia is in the matter; for, though it is easy to represent your own views in your own words, when you attempt to represent the contention of other persons, of the party with whom you are in controversy, it is possible that some words you may use may not represent as accurately as they would wish it to be represented the precise views that they take. I will only say, therefore, that they do not admit our contention in the matter. I do not know how soon I shall be able to lay Papers on the Table. I am very anxious to do so as soon as possible, because it will dissipate all misunderstanding, and make the position of the Government very much more satisfactory. But, of course, it is impossible to do so as long as by doing so we might in any way compromise the success of the negotiation. I may say that the delay at present is chiefly due to the desire of the Russian Government to obtain more information with respect to the matter on which the controversy turns. The noble Duke asks me, in the next place, what are the terms of the agreement concluded between the Viceroy of India and the Ameer of Afghanistan at the Durbar at Rawul Pindi? I do not think it would be desirable to publish the whole account of that interview, because foreign Potentates, and especially Potentates like the Ameer of Afghanistan, do not understand our Parliamentary ways, and might resent that that should be given to the world which they had spoken imagining it to be in perfect confidence. At the same time I can tell the noble Duke, what I have said before, that we distinctly agreed that the Ameer should have the Zulfikar Pass as a portion of the Afghan Frontier. The noble Duke proceeds to ask whether those terms have been subjected to any modification or amendment by Her Majesty's present Government? To that my answer is easy. They have been subjected to no modification or amendment whatever. The noble Duke also asks—Whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to occupy the Pishin Valley or any other strategical positions within the dominions of the Ameer with a force of observation this autumn?Well, this is a Question which it is 1031 rather difficult to answer directly, because it contains some misapprehensions. We are already in occupation of the Pishin Valley, which is not a position within the Dominion of the Ameer, but belongs to the Crown of England. The Pishin Valley, as I have said, is occupied, and I dare say probably will be occupied, in greater force as time goes on. The noble Duke is well aware of the policy which was stated in the course of the somewhat remarkable debate which was started at the instance of the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Argyll) some months ago, in which there was substantial agreement between both sides of the House as to the imperative necessity of strengthening our Indian Frontier. That policy, I believe, as the late Government understood it, as far as I know, we are pursuing as rapidly and as vigorously as we can. No ephemeral alteration in the diplomatic situation will induce us in any degree to relax or alter a policy which does not depend upon the transitory conditions of our relations with this or that Power, and which is absolutely necessary for the security of our Indian Empire, without reference to what other nations may be doing. We have no intention to occupy any strategic position in the Dominions of the Ameer with a force of observation during the present autumn. The Ameer is an independent Potentate, and of course we could not do such a thing without his permission; but, apart from that, there is no desire to do it at present. What might happen under certain contingencies in the future I will not say; I only can speak for the present, and there is no project of the kind in contemplation by the Indian Government.