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- Indian Frontier Policy - 1/8 -


INDIAN FRONTIER POLICY

AN HISTORICAL SKETCH

BY

GENERAL SIR JOHN ADYE, G.C.B., R.A.

WITH A MAP

PREFACE

The subject of our policy on the North-West frontier of India is one of great importance, as affecting the general welfare of our Eastern Empire, and is specially interesting at the present time, when military operations on a considerable scale are being conducted against a combination of the independent tribes along the frontier.

It must be understood that the present condition of affairs is no mere sudden outbreak on the part of our turbulent neighbours. Its causes lie far deeper, and are the consequences of events in bygone years.

In the following pages I have attempted to give a short historical summary of its varying phases, in the hope that I may thus assist the public in some degree to understand its general bearings, and to form a correct opinion of the policy which should be pursued in the future.

JOHN ADYE,

_General_.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER I

EVENTS PRIOR TO, AND INCLUDING, FIRST AFGHAN WAR OF 1839-41

Proposed Invasion of India by Napoleon I.--Mission of Burnes to Cabul --Its Failure--Hostility of Russia and Persia--First Afghan War, 1839-41 --Its Vicissitudes and Collapse.

CHAPTER II

EVENTS PRIOR, AND LEADING UP, TO SECOND AFGHAN WAR

Conquest of Khiva, Bokhara, and Kokand by Russia--British Conquest of Scinde and the Punjaub--Our Policy with the Frontier Tribes--Treaty of 1857 with Dost Mahomed--Shere Ali succeeds as Ameer, 1868--War of 1878-- Abdul Rahman becomes Ameer--Withdrawal of British Army from Afghanistan, 1881.

CHAPTER III

FRONTIER POLICY SINCE SECOND AFGHAN WAR, INCLUDING EXPEDITION TO CHITRAL

Further Advance of Russia--Merv Occupied--Sir West Ridgeway's Frontier Commission of 1885--The Durand Agreement with Abdul Rahman--The Chitral Expedition of 1895--Its Results--Sudden Outbreak of Frontier Tribes, 1897.

[Illustration: Afghanistan and North-West Frontier of INDIA.]

INDIAN FRONTIER POLICY

AN HISTORICAL SKETCH

CHAPTER I

EVENTS PRIOR TO, AND INCLUDING, FIRST AFGHAN WAR OF 1839-41

Proposed Invasion of India by Napoleon I.--Mission of Burnes to Cabul --Its Failure--Hostility of Russia and Persia--First Afghan War, 1839-41 --Its Vicissitudes and Collapse.

In considering the important and somewhat intricate subject of policy on the North-Western frontier of our Indian Empire it will be desirable, in the first place, to give a concise history of the events which have guided our action, and which for many years past have exercised a predominating influence in that part of our Eastern dominion.

Speaking generally, it may, I think, be said that the main features of our policy on the North-Western frontier have been determined by the gradual advance of Russia southwards, and partly also by the turbulent character of the people of Afghanistan, and of the independent tribes who inhabit the great region of mountains which lie between Russia and ourselves.

These two circumstances--the first having been the most powerful--have led us into great wars and frontier expeditions, which as a rule have been costly, and in some cases unjust, and their consequences have not tended to strengthen our position either on the frontier or in India itself.

It will be well therefore to give an outline of the Russian conquests in Central Asia to the north of Afghanistan, and also of our dealings with the rulers of Cabul in bygone years, and we shall then be better able to judge of our present position, and to determine the principles which should guide our North-Western frontier policy.

One of the first threats of invasion of India early in the century was planned at Tilsit, and is thus described by Kaye:[Footnote: _History of the War in Afghanistan_] 'Whilst the followers of Alexander and Napoleon were abandoning themselves to convivial pleasures, those monarchs were spending quiet evenings together discussing their future plans, and projecting joint schemes of conquest. It was then that they meditated the invasion of Hindostan by a confederate army uniting on the plains of Persia; and no secret was made of the intention of the two great European potentates to commence in the following spring a hostile demonstration--Contre les possessions de la compagnie des Indes.'

The peril, however, was averted by a treaty at Teheran in March 1809, in which the Shah of Persia covenanted not to permit any European force whatever to pass through Persia towards India, or towards the ports of that country. And so the visionary danger passed away.

The old southern boundary of Russia in Central Asia extended from the north of the Caspian by Orenburg and Orsk, across to the old Mongolian city of Semipalatinsk, and was guarded by a cordon of forts and Cossack outposts. It was about 2,000 miles in length, and [Footnote: _Quarterly Review_, Oct. 1865.] 'abutted on the great Kirghis Steppe, and to a certain extent controlled the tribes pasturing in the vicinity, but by no means established the hold of Russia on that pathless, and for the most part lifeless, waste.'

During all the earlier years of the century, while we were establishing our power in India, constant intrigues and wars occurred in Persia, Afghanistan, and Central Asia; and rumours were occasionally heard of threats against ourselves, which formed the subject of diplomatic treatment from time to time; but in reality the scene was so distant that our interests were not seriously affected, and it was not until 1836 that they began to exercise a powerful influence as regards our policy on the North-West frontier.

In that year Lord Auckland was Governor-General, and Captain Alexander Burnes was sent on a commercial mission up the Indus, and through the Kyber Pass, to Cabul, where he was received in a friendly manner by the Ameer Dost Mahomed. It must be borne in mind that neither Scinde nor the Punjaub was then under our rule, so that our frontiers were still far distant from Afghanistan. It was supposed at the time that Russia was advancing southward towards India in league with Persia, and the mission of Burnes was in reality political, its object being to induce the Ameer to enter into a friendly alliance.

Dost Mahomed was quite willing to meet our views, and offered to give up altogether any connection with the two Powers named. It, however, soon became apparent that our interests were by no means identical; his great object, as we found, being to recover the Peshawur district, which had been taken a few years previously by Runjeet Singh, while we, on the other hand, courted his friendship chiefly in order that his country might prove a barrier against the advance of Russia and Persia.

These respective views were evidently divergent and the issues doubtful; when suddenly a Russian Envoy (Vicovitch), also on a so-called commercial mission, arrived at Cabul, offering the Ameer money and assistance against the Sikhs. This altered the aspect of affairs. Burnes wrote to the Governor-General that the Russians were evidently trying to outbid us. Still some hope remained, until definite instructions arrived from Lord Auckland declining to mediate with or to act against Runjeet Singh, the ruler of the Punjaub. The Ameer felt that we made great demands on him but gave him nothing in return. It then became evident that the mission of Burnes was a failure, and in April 1838 he returned to India. It was our first direct effort to provide against a distant and unsubstantial danger, and it failed; but unfortunately we did not take the lesson to heart.

In the meantime the Shah of Persia, instigated by Russia, besieged Herat, but after months of fruitless effort, and in consequence of our sending troops to the Persian Gulf, the Shah at length withdrew his army.

It was not only the hostile efforts of the Shah on Herat in 1838 which were a cause of anxiety to the Indian Government; but, as Kaye writes,[Footnote: Kaye's _War in Afghanistan._] 'far out in the distance beyond the mountains of the Hindoo Koosh there was the shadow of a great Northern army, tremendous in its indistinctness, sweeping across the wilds and deserts of Central Asia towards the frontiers of Hindostan.' That great Northern army, as we know now, but did not know then, was the column of Perofski, which had left Orenburg for the attempted conquest of Khiva, but which subsequently perished from hardships and pestilence in the snowy wastes of the Barsuk Desert, north of the Aral.


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