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‘Foreign Department Notes. Arms Traffic in the Persian Gulf.’ [‎11r] (21/22)

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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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1. The Secretary of State’s telegram, dated 17th May, appears to indicate that circum
stances will not, in the near future, permit of the conclusion of a new Treaty with the Sultan of
Maskat for the prevention of the import of arms into Oman. Should the matter seem likely
to arise a«-ain, at any time, in a practical form* I should be glad of an opportunity for making
suggestions, if they are wanted, as to the conditions which it would be desirable to try and get
inserted in such a Treaty.
2. In default of measures for the prevention of import, His Majesty^ Government will
now, perhaps, decide to take vigorous action, in accordance with the suggestions which have
already been made, for the prevention of the export of arms from Maskat to the Mekran Coast.
If so, it will become necessary to consider the probable effect of such action on our relations
with His Highness the Sultan.
3. There can be no doubt that an abrupt stoppage of the export would have a prejudicial
effect on those relations, since, in the first place, the Sultan would soon lose a large portion of
the revenue which he now gets from the arms traffic and he would naturally feel a grievance
against us on this account.
In the second place, in order to retain our friendship, he would be compelled to incur the
enmity of all the powerful private bodies interested in the arms traffic. If he failed to back up
the claims of his own subjects, they would be exasperated at the idea that their rights were
being sacrificed tamely by their ruler, and he would feel that his chances of assassination, of
which he is always apprehensive, were gravely increased.
Foreigners, like M. Goguyer, would call upon the Sultan who has been their sleeping
partner for so long, to take an active part in the defence of the industry, and if he failed td
comply, they would intrigue against him locally and would incite the Afghans to threaten him.
4-. In the third place, the Sultan would be exposed to diplomatic pressure from the
foreign Powers interested in the arms traffic. The French Government having no longer so
much inducement to remain neutral, would probably instruct their Consul to protect vigorously
the interests of French arms merchants which would be injured by our aggressive action, and
the Consul would, doubtless, renew con amore the tactics of past years by which our relations
with His Highness have frequently been embarrassed.
The German Government which would probably be appealed to by the Hamburg firms
might conceivably regard the estrangement between the Sultan and ourselves as a favourable
^opportunity for securing His Highness's signature to a Commercial Treaty and his consent to
the appointment of a German Consul at Maskat.
Our important political interests in this part of the world might thus be seriously
jeopardised in consequence of our efforts to suppress the arms trade.
5. Our position at Maskat is, however, very strong at present, and although the game
would be somewhat risky, I think that we could probably contend, even with no other weapons
than we now possess, against any adverse influences that could be brought to bear on us there.
The chief object of the Sultan's policy is to remain on good terms with us at all costs,
and rather than forfeit our friendship, he would submit to a heavy loss of revenue, would
endure unpopularity among his own subjects and would reject alike the threats and offers of
other Powers. His relations with the inland tribes render his throne somewhat shaky, and
he holds fast to the belief that, so long as he acts squarely by the British Government in
important matters, they will protect him from attack. His great desire now is for a quiet
life, and he is anxious to avoid entanglements with foreign Powers, firstly, because they would
lead to a quarrel with us, and, secondly, because he fears that foreign agents would intrigue
against him with the inland tribes, if they once gained a footing in his country.
6. On the other hand, it is just possible that the Sultan, irritated by the loss of revenue
and exposed to powerful pressure on all sides, might be driven into an attitude of hostility to us.
If so, he might embroil us with the French, and possibly with the German Government, and a
dangerous situation might be created.
It is perhaps worth while considering whether, with a view to lessen this danger, we could
now enter into any arrangement with the Sultan which would have the effect, on the one hand,
of strengthening his position against internal and external intrigues, and on the other hand,
of attaching him firmly to our interests in the matter.
7. The first expedient which suggests itself is the grant of substantial compensation to
H is Highness for the loss of his revenue from the arms traffic. This would not only render
him favourably disposed towards our measures, but would efiable him to placate pecuniarily those
of bis own subjects who were most clamorous about their losses, and to combat internal
It is suggested in the Memorandum, dated 22nd July 1908, by the British Plenipoten
tiaries to the Brussels Conference that the French might object, under the terms of the Joint
Declaration of 1862, to any increase being made in the subsidy given by us to His Highness.

About this item


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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‘Foreign Department Notes. Arms Traffic in the Persian Gulf.’ [‎11r] (21/22), 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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