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‘Foreign Department Notes. Arms Traffic in the Persian Gulf.’ [‎6v] (12/22)

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The record is made up of 1 file (11 folios). It was created in 1909. 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.


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communities In Afghanistan, and the possession of efficient weapons may
at any time encourage them to rise in arms against the corrupt and incom
petent officials who represent the Amir’s Government. Perhaps the one
means the Amir would be able successfully to employ in order to extinguish
a conflagration of this sort would be an order for general which, as already
pointed & out, is being assiduously preached by the mullas in almost all the
provinces. Then, again, the possession of modern arms by Afghan subjects residing
near our border has undoubtedly encouraged them to commit raids and outrages
on a more formidable and frequent scale, and each one of such carries in it the
germ of a possibly very strained situation with Afghanistan.
As regards the country on our side of the Durand line the case has been well
put by Sir George Roos-Keppel in his last Administration Report. A moment s
reflection should suffice to impress us with
* Redsh P- the very serious character of the danger by
which we are confronted within our owm frontier. In 1897-98 we found it neces
sary to mobilise close on 70,000 men. Yet to-day the tribes, in the Chief Commis
sioner’s opinion, are perhaps ten times better armed than in those years, and have,
moreover, an extremely abundant supply of ammunition. I may mention that the
returns for this year giving the armament of our frontier tribes show an increase
over last year’s returns of some 26,000 rifles, quite apart from the increase in
Swat and Bajaur, the figures for which have not yet been received, though in
February last Colonel Godfrey estimated that “ thousands ” of arms had come
into that area in the previous twelve months.f Undoubtedly our means of correct
ly ascertaining the real extent of the increase and improvement in armament
of our frontier tribes are most inadequate. We depend entirely on political
sources for this information, and political officers are the first to admit the very
approximate accuracy of the information supplied. From the Masqat figures,
however, it would appear quite possible that anything from 50,000 to
100,000 rifles have been absorbed on our North-West Frontier within
the last three years. And now that the frontier tribes themselves have
embarked directly in the trade—which is what all our most recent and
reliable information shows—we may confidently expect that, unless the
traffic is severely checked, the process of rearmament, with ever more
modern and formidable weapons, will proceed apace. Undoubtedly, therefore,
one may correctly summarise the case by saying that a grave military danger
is growing up before our eyes ; that already it has attained to very serious
proportions ; and that almost any reasonable measures and expenditure, having
for their aim the suppression of this traffic, would, as being in the long run most
economical, be amply justified.
Accordingly I think this Division may strongly support the proposalsj of
+ c ,, , His Excellency the Naval Commander in
J Flag “Z 1 below. • c 11 r-»i>
Chief, extended as in Mr. Butlers note.
There remains the further point which I have alluded to in the beginning of the
second paragraph of this note. In his sub-paragraph (c), page 14 of the notes,
Mr. Butler has discussed the possibility of land action on Persian soil by British
troops. This, of course, is mainly a political question. But it is for considera
tion whether it might not be advisable to put it to the Secretary of State whether
the recent action of Russia in Northern Persia would not justify our now sending
troops to Persian Makran, not for purposes of permanent occupation, but solely
with an eye to the suppression of the arms traffic. At any rate, whether the
political objections to such a course may be adjudged insuperable or not, there
can be no doubt whatever that from the point of view of sheer efficiency
such land action is eminently desirable, and consequently is worthy of the
most serious consideration. All our latest information is to the effect that
throughout this summer arms have constantly been conveyed across to the
Makran coast, where they are stored and taken charge of by the Baluch
sardars interested in the traffic pending the arrival of the Afghan caravans in
the cold weather. Obviously naval action, no matter on how extended a scale,
t These figures have now been obtained from Major Rawlinson. They indicate an increase in arms in the
Dir, Swat, and Bajaur, Agency An office of the British Government and, earlier, of the East India Company. of no less than 33 , 500 , of which 16,500 are said to be Martinis. This is probably the
increase of more than 12 months, the returns hitherto sent us by Colonel Godfrey having been somewhat perfunc
tory. The total reported increase this year is consequently about 60,000 rifles.
W. Malleson,— je-y-og.

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Printed copies of correspondence and memoranda relating to the arms traffic 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. :

  • a letter from Leonard William Reynolds of the Government of India, dated 29 June 1909 (ff 2-3)
  • a confidential letter from the British Minister to Belgium, Arthur Henry Hardinge, to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Edward Grey, dated 3 May 1909 (f 4)
  • a letter from the Political Agent A mid-ranking political representative (equivalent to a Consul) from the diplomatic corps of the Government of India or one of its subordinate provincial governments, in charge of a Political Agency. at Maskat [Muscat], Robert Erskine Holland, dated 5 July 1909 (ff 4-5)
  • a memorandum written by Wilfrid Malleson of the Intelligence Branch, Indian Army Headquarters, dated 10 July 1909, also signed by the Officiating Chief of Staff in India, Herbert Mullaly, and the Chief of Staff in India, Beauchamp Duff (ff 6-7)
  • further copies of correspondence signed by Malleson, Mullaly, Duff, and others including the Commander-in-Chief in India, Horatio Herbert Kitchener, and the Foreign Secretary to the Government of India, Spencer Harcourt Butler (ff 8-10)
  • a confidential memorandum written by Robert Erskine Holland, dated 27 June 1909 (f 11)
Extent and format
1 file (11 folios)
Physical characteristics

Foliation: the foliation sequence (used for referencing) commences at the first folio with 1, and terminates at the last folio with 11; these numbers are written in pencil, are circled, 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.

Pagination: this part also contains an original printed pagination sequence.

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English in Latin script
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‘Foreign Department Notes. Arms Traffic in the Persian Gulf.’ [‎6v] (12/22), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/PS/20/289/B, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 12 November 2019]

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