LORD LYTTON ON CANDAHAR.
WE do not hesitate to say that if the people of England could read the speech made by Lord Lytton on Thursday on Candahar, together with his Minute of September, 1878, on Afghan affairs, with fair attention and intelligence, they would give up the late Viceroy of India altogether. He is not a statesman, or a soldier, or a straightforward politician, but only a tricky diplomatist, with views so wild that it is hardly possible to believe, in spite of the evidence of his own hand- writing, that he actually holds them. His constant assertion throughout the Afghan war has been that he desired a strong, a friendly, and an independent Afghanistan ; he assured Shore Ali that the British Government was his friend, and he quotes in his speech, with ever-recurring resentment, the marks of the Ameer's unfriendliness. Yet in his Minute, dated September 9th, 1878, written before Sir N. Chamberlain had been sent to the Amer, and intended for the confidential instruction of the Government at home, he declares that India's proper boundary is the Ilindoo Koosh, the range beyond Afghanistan proper ; that we must hold the Passes there, if not " poste beyond the great range ;" that we must possess ourselves of Herat, and that in fact "the strongest frontier we could take up would be along the Hindu-Kush from the Pamir to Bainian, holding the northern debauches of the principal Passes ; and thence southwards by the Helmand, Girishk, and Gondalier, to the Arabian Sea. Though political considerations of the moment may compel and justify an extension of our line to the northern frontier of Afghanistan, this would weaken rather than strengthen our general position. But the political and strategical importance of Herat is so great that, though it lies beyond our natural frontier, it cannot be excluded from our line of defence. This line, therefore, should ultimately run from the Hindu-Kush along the Paropamieus to Herat, and thence down the western frontier of .Afghanistan and Beloochietan to the Arabian Sea." We say nothing of the madness of a scheme which would compel us to waste the resources of India in holding down the fierce Mussulmans of a vast Central-Asian plateau, which would compel us to build and defend a Metz at Herat, five hundred miles beyond our territory, with enemies on every mile of the road, and ask only whether Lord Lytton did or did not intend to destroy Share Ali, reduce him to vassalage or nullity, and occupy his country. If any one hesitates as to his answer, let him read the two following extracts, one from the Minute and cue from the instructions to Sir Neville Chamberlain :— "If the Ameer proves hopelessly estranged, and we fail in all efforts to win him ; or if the Envoy considers that, from any cause, it is not desirable to involve ourselves in engagements with him, we must take iminediate steps to neutralise his hostility, and to secure our interests. The best course then open
to us would probably be to aim at dethroning him, replacing him by a candidate more favourable to ourselves. There !seems little doubt that we could easily dethrone him, but the results of such action must be well considered." " If the Ameer still remains hostile, we should take no further action against him, beyond entering into negotiations with all the tribes and parties in Afghanistan who are un- friendly to him ; and there is little doubt that his kingdom would fall to pieces of itself. Nor could any candidate, hostile to us, maintain himself on the throne of Cabul ; which would thus necessarily fall to a successor friendly to us. To such successor we should endeavour, by every means in our power, to secure the whole of southern and western Afghanistan." And then Lord Lytton is virtuously indignant with General Stoletoff for advising Shore Ali to trick us, and declares that no confidence can be placed in Russian protestations! General Stoletoff recommended intrigue to Shore Ali against a Power then threatening him ; but Lord Lytton orders intrigue against Shore Ali, because he will not agree to conditions fatal, in Lord Lytton's own opinion, to his independence. And Lord Beaconsfield, having read this Minute, and knowing Lord Lytton's inner mind, his intentions against Sher° Ali, his decision that England must rule to the Hindoo Koosli—a decision fatal to Afghanistan—declares, pub. holy and solemnly, on November 9th, that we are only seeking to substitute " a scientific frontier for a haphazard one.
The question, however, before Parliament is of Candahar. Lord Lytton mourns over the weakness of the Government in retiring from Candahar, and declares that every great authority is against that fatal step. The "Government of India," he said dn Thursday," attached supreme importance to the reten- tion of Candahar, and I still attach it." I "believe that it is absolutely for the safety of India that the Government Of India should have in its own hand the permanent control of Afghanistan, and I believe such control cannot be exercised except .front Candahar." " we exercise no British influence in Candahar to exclude Russian influence in that country, you can no longer rely upon the friendship and alliance if the ruler If Cabal." No doubt, if Britain is to reign at Herat, we must have Candahar, and so far Lord Lytton is right, but will it be believed that in his confidential Minute he expressly stated that Candabar was worthless ? He said, "Our position on the West is eminently satisfactory. Our flank is covered by the Arabian Sea and the sandy deserts of western Beim- chistan ; while the roads and passes leading into India arc commanded by Quetta. Thom a military point of view, our position here leaves little to be desired, beyond the improvement of our communications between Quetta and the Indus : and though we can never allow Candahar to fall into the hands of a rival Power, and political or special military considerations may make it necessary for us to occupy that town, I do not consider that such occupation would actually strengthen our western frontier." And again :—" The recent occupation olQuetta has materially inapro.yed our position. The command of the southern Passes is now in our hands, and from Multan to the sea, a distance of 500 miles, our frontier is well guarded. While we, securely established at Quetta, can at any moment descend on the plains of Candahar, or advance to meet our adversary in the open field, no enemy can debouch on our plains without first besieging and taking Quetta—a task of no slight difficulty, and involving much loss of precious time—and then forcing a long and difficult pass held by us." The obvious truth is that Lord Lytton meant to reign at Cabul over a submissive vassal, and that, when this project failed, he fell back on Candahar as an after-thought, in which he scarcely believed, and that he now wants it to be held at any expense and any risk, partly because he desires to keep open the road for a mad project of reigning up ta lIsrat. but chiefly because there will then be something to show for the lives and the treasure that have been squandered to no purpose, except to keep up an impression in England that the Tory Government which boasted so much was really doing great things. And while Lord Lytton was doing this, while he was in public striving to keep Afghanistan in the position of a friendly, even if subordinate, ally, he was laying before Ws own superiors in writing the following monstrous scheme of partition, a scheme which, if Russia 'proposed it, vsould he denounced by him and every other Tory as proof positive of Russia's nefarious spirit of treachery and intrigue. " But in any case, the time will have come for opening negotiations with Russia, and determining the future line of demarcation in Central Asia, Russia is net now in a position
to contest supremacy with us on the Oxus, unless we commit the fatal mistake of driving Afghanistan bodily into her arms by an invasion. Russia knows .this, and knows also that, if once our troops come into collision with hers, our advance is not likely to stop at the Oxus. It will, therefore, in effect, remain with us to determine our ultimate boundary ; and I would practically draw it at the Hindu-Kush, while requiring, however, the withdrawal of Russian troops behind the Oxus. The terms I would, in this case, offer Russia are the acknow- ledgment by us of her protectorate over Bokhara, and all the country north of tho Oxus, on the understanding that she acknowledges a similar protectorate on our part over Afghani- stan proper ; and that the limit of advance for the troops on the two sides should be the Oxus and the Hindu-Kush (in- cluding Damian) respectively—either Power reserving to itself full liberty of action, should the other pass these bounds." And all this while we were full, in public, of respect for the independence of Afghanistan, and thought Shore Ali an enemy, as well as a fool, for distrusting British professions.
Is it necessary to say another word? There can be no reply to Lord Lytton so perfect as his own, no evidence which so condemns his policy, no proof so positive that Candahar is worthless. And yet we must make one more extract from his Minute, just to show what Lord Lytton must himself think of his own proceedings. The one sole justification for his policy is that he feared lest Afghanistan should. become Russian. He himself forced a war upon the Ameer ; he himself invaded Afghanistan ; and he himself, in his own handwriting, thus condemns his own policy :—"If we invade Afghanistan, she will immediately throw herself into the arms of Russia ; and even if Russia., unwilling to involve herself at this moment in a, great Euro- pean war, does not assist her, she will certainly assist her with money, arms, officers, and advice."