'Minute by His Excellency the Viceroy on Russian Ambitions in Eastern Persia' [133v] (4/6)
The record is made up of 1 file (3 folios). It was created in 28 Oct 1901. It was written in English. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.
This transcription is created automatically. It may contain errors.
the past ICO years. It is inconceivable that a [succession of Indian Govern
ments and of British statesmen for a century can all have been so blind as
to have expended the efforts of a ceaseless diplomacy and millions of money
upon an object which, after all, was of little value or concern. Even,
however, if we brush aside this consensus of authority, and if we assume that
Great Britain may in the past have placed her money on the wrong horse in
Asia as well as in Europe, let us see what there is in the present situation to
help us to an independent reply.
12. The subject is two-fold, commercial and political. By the efforts of
our traders during the past century we have built up a commerce (in the
main from India) with the ports of the Persian Gulf Historically used by the British to refer to the sea area between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. Often referred to as The Gulf or the Arabian Gulf. and with the cities of
Southern and Central and even of Northern Persia, which possesses an annual
value of several millions sterling. It is not too much to say that we have
created this market, and that in the southern zone we still monopolise it.
The political absorption of Persia by Russia means the certain proscription
and the ultimate extinction of this trade—at least in every article in which
Russia can compete with India or Great Britain. Where now is the Indian
or the British trade with Tiflis, Bokhara, and Samarkand? Persia would
follow suit; and a system of carefully differentiated*tariffs would, in a short
time, deprive India of one of her best and most lucrative markets.
13. These considerations are sufficiently serious. The political ones are
grasp of Russia, should she at any time care to run the risk of a casus belli
with Great Britain Rut the Russian railway about to be constructed to
Meshed if prolonged, as is the intention, to Seistan, and ultimately to the
Gulf, will dispense Russia from the necessity of crossing the Afghan frontier
on the Herat side. From Persian territory she will menace the entire
western flank of Afghanistan. She will command the Herat-Kandatiar road
and will render insecure any future British occupation of Kandahar. Lower
down, in the unsettled tracts of Baluchistan and Makran, which we have at
present only imperfectly brought under our control, there would he limitless
scope for frontier disturbance and local intrigue. We should be compelled,
at the cost of a great expenditure of money and of a serious addition to our
responsibilities, to invest our authority over those regions with a more
concrete character, and to maintain posts and garrisons to guard what would
then have become a vulnerable, though it is now a negligeable, section of the
of the Indian border. . .
14. The Minute which I wrote on 4th September 1899, and sent home to
the India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. with the Government of India’s despatch of 21st September
1899, sufficiently indicated the extreme strategical importance to India of
Seistan. The success that lias attended the efforts which wc have since made
to develop the trace route from India to that part of Persia—the value of the
trade having risen in two years from 7 J to 15 lakhs—has tended to increase
both our interest and our influence in that portion of the Shah’s dominions,
and has encouraged us to project the early construction of a railway from
Quetta to Nusbki, /.c., over the first 90 miles of the route. A Russian
railway through Seistan to the Gulf—followed as it must be by the political
absorption of Seistan—would not merely kill this promising enterprise, and
close the one remaining overland trade-route (that to Yarkand and Kashgar
is already nearly dead) that still remains open to Indian commerce, but it
would have the following further and even more serious consequences. It
would place Russia in control of a district ethnographieslly connected with
Baluchistan, would profoundly affect our prestige both with Afghan and
Balueh, and would greatly enhance the difficulties that we already
experience in managing the cognate tribes on the Indian side of the
border. If Great Britain is ever called upon to advance to Kandahar, as
she will probably one day he compelled to do, an intolerable state of friction
would arise between the Powers that would then control the upper and the
lower waters of the Helmund. Moreover, while Seistan, if it ever fell
under British influence, could, owing to the protecting floods upon the
About this item
The file consists of a Minute by George Nathaniel Curzon, Viceroy and Governor-General of India in Council regarding Russian ambitions in Eastern Persia. These include: the absorption of Persia, the connection of Russian territories by railway with the Indian Ocean, and the acquisition of a fortified naval base in the Persian Gulf Historically used by the British to refer to the sea area between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. Often referred to as The Gulf or the Arabian Gulf. .
Curzon examines how far Russian ambitions would negatively affect British interests, and how far they should either be acquiesced or opposed.
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Foliation: the foliation sequence for this description commences at f 132, and terminates at f 134, as it is part of a larger physical volume; these numbers are written in pencil, and are located in the top right corner of the recto The front of a sheet of paper or leaf, often abbreviated to 'r'. side of each folio.
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