THE LITTLE WAR WITH TIBET. T HE little war in the
mountain region of Sikkim is over —for the present ; we trust that winter will prove to be a peacemaker, and that the strife with the Lamas will not have to be renewed. Colonel Graham, with his small yet effective force of Sherwood Foresters, Goorkhas, and Pioneers, has done his work well. The first defeat of the Tibetans not having satisfied them, he was reinforced when they showed an evident intention to try another fall. There seems to have been a lingering hope that Chinese persuasion would overbear the obstinacy displayed at Lhassa, and when that died away, the soldier soon con- vinced the enemy that he had better retire. After securing his flanks and rear from possible incursions through lateral valleys by breaking down the bridges, Colonel Graham shot out his handful of disciplined men direct upon the entrenchments. The Tibetans were not prepared for such a resolute, unhesitating mode of fighting. Although they far exceeded their assailants in point of number, they were driven from every position into the Chumbi Valley, followed. thither the next day, and induced to seek safety by flight, some to Phari, on the road to Lhassa, and others into Bootan. The Sikkim Rajah escaped, for the moment, with one of the Lamas ; but the " political" accompanying the force saw the Rajah's mother and also a Chinese official at Chumbi, and was told by the latter that the Ampa (it used to be Amban) who represents Pekin in Lhassa had started for the front to " stop the fighting." Perhaps the defeat will emphasise his influence with the Lamas, and render a satisfactory peace easier. The very ancient mili- tary difficulty of supplies compelled Colonel Graham to retrace his steps, and regain his camp and magazines at Gnatong. The Tibetan warriors only succeeded in killing -one Goorkha and wounding Colonel Bromhead, as well as eight of his Pioneers,—a clear proof that they were stricken with panic by the swift, unfaltering onset. The wind of that rout will reach far. It has already brought the Rajah of Sikkim back to Gnatong.
If the war is little, it has one characteristic which takes it out of the range of common conflicts. It has been waged not only above the clouds, but at an elevation far higher than would be possible in Europe, and not remote from the Himalayan line of eternal snow. The Anglo-Indian Army, less in number than a French or German regiment, has had the privilege of manceuvring and fighting amidst the most magnificent scenery, and under the shadow of the loftiest mountains in the world. The hardy little Goorkhas would feel quite at home on these elevated ridges and among the profound ravines, spanned here and there by bamboo bridges or rope-ferries in the air, suspended over an abyss. But what would the Sherwood Foresters think of the gigantic chain which rises in the majesty and splendour of towering rocks, vast glaciers, and precipitous cliffs, with their pendant "ice-canopies," overhanging the endless fields of glittering snow? To the west of their field of warfare, Kinchinjanga rises up and " takes the morning ;" and on the north-east, Chumalari, not quite so lofty, looks down into the Chumbi Valley and also upon the northern slopes that lead to the capital of Tibet. It may be possible to see the sharp, pyramid-like peak of " top- most" Gaurisankar, better known as Mount Everest, and .a score of lesser snow-clad giants. We have not read. before of battles fought by our people in such a country, —savage, barren, sublime, and awe-inspiring, so that the Alpine mountaineer and Alpine guide have both yielded to the enchantment, and confessed the supremacy of the Himalayan over all other scenes of highland grandeur. But while it is a land of everlasting beauty, which fills the climber or the tourist with enthusiasm, it is also a land of labour and weariness, at least to the European soldier. He is spared much, but he must walk, and here the gorges in the folded transverse ridges are deep, so that his toil in descending and ascending is frequently severe. One can easily imagine how he must have welcomed the signal for action, and the sustained fury with which he dashed upon the entrenchments thrown across the cols or passes ; for victory might mean an early return to the lower ranges, and doubtless he prefers the comforts of Darjeeling to the honour of fighting so near the snow-line and marching where European infantry never marched before. In its picturesque aspects, the brief campaign in the mountains of Sikkim stands alone in our military annals, and may it long enjoy that distinction !—for though adorned with the surroundings of romance, it is at bottom a rather grim reality which we would fain see honourably extinguished. For the present, by good-luck, the approach of winter has put an end to active operations, and furnished a period during which diplomacy may work. There is, we believe, a brief fine season in October • but its duration in these uplands is very uncertain, and the utmost time available too short for any effective enterprise. Therefore, it behoves the Indian and Home Governments to use all the influence they possess at Pekin for the purpose of terminating the quarrel which has been forced upon us. Under no circum- stances can the Lhassa people be allowed to trouble, much less enter Sikkim, and if they persist, defying China as well as India, then the cost and loss and toil of a march to Lhassa will have to be endured like a drought, a deluge, or any other evil. But as a matter of policy, we should not seek to dictate a treaty in the capital of Tibet, for reasons pointed out in these columns last June. The idea of opening up Tibet in order that a tea monopoly enjoyed. by the Lamas should be broken, and that Indian Tea Companies should profit by it, is not only unsound. statesmanship, but an injustice to the tax- payers of India, who have no sort of interest in the matter. India has ceased to be an " island " on the north-west, has come into contact with China on the east, and should not seek, by breaking down the icy barrier which protects it on the north, to create a host of fresh liabilities and new obligations. The mere thirst for forcing commerce with Tibet is not a justifiable or expedient motive for a war the expense of which would exceed any profit laid open to trading enterprise, and imposing responsibilities out of all proportion to possible gains. That we could go to Lhassa, by spending enough money, perhaps some millions, is indisputable ; but it would be sheer folly to go there unless absolutely compelled. We might as well go to Yarkhand, or Herat, or Ispahan, and with as little reason or no reason. Clearly the true policy is to secure the exemption of Sikkim from Northern meddling, and to reduce the cost of keeping the hill-frontier Co the lowest figure. What influence China may actually have in Tibet is not accurately known. In the last resort it is irresistible, but no one can say precisely at what point, where her own distinct claims to supremacy are not involved, China will speak the last word. We have impressed Lhassa, for a crushing victory always tells, and we may now persuade China to prevent her tributary from running a deadlier risk. But in no case should. we strive, as matter of State policy, to pierce the Southern Himalayan boundary for no other purpose than that of forcing Indian teas upon the Tibetans and getting wool in return. Unless the Lamas prove stupidly unreasonable and persistent in their aggressions, a petty trade would be the sole motive for a war of invasion.