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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Have been constructed between Robat and Kerman


Fire-arms

would command a very ready sale, but their importation is strictly forbidden.

The articles of export from Khorassan and Sistan are wool, ghi, saffron, dried fruit of various kinds, hides, jujubes, assafoetida, pistachio-nuts, barak, kurak, gum, valuable carpets, and some turquoises.

In Sistan itself wheat and oats are plentiful, but their export to foreign countries is not permitted. Opium finds its way out of the country _via_ Bandar Abbas, and wool, ghi, feathers, carpets, and assafoetida are conveyed principally to Kerman, Birjand, Meshed, Yezd, the Gulf, and Quetta.

One of the principal problems of the new land route to India is not only how to induce British traders to go to Persia, but how to solve the more difficult point of persuading the big Persian traders to cross the bridge and venture into India. They seem at present too indolent and suspicious to undertake such a long journey, and would rather pay for luxuries to be brought to their doors than go and get them themselves.

With the assistance, both moral and financial, of the enterprising Major Sykes, a large caravan was sent from Kerman to Quetta with Persian goods, and paid satisfactorily, but others that followed seem to have had a good many disasters on the road (on Persian territory) and fared less well. Major Sykes's effort was most praiseworthy, for indeed, as regards purely

Persian trade, I think Kerman or Yezd must in future be the aiming points of British caravans rather than Meshed. These places have comparatively large populations and the field of operations is practically unoccupied, whereas in Meshed Russian competition is very strong.

With the present ways of communication across the Salt Desert, it is most difficult and costly to attempt remunerative commercial communication with these towns. Small caravans could not possibly pay expenses, and large caravans might fare badly owing to lack of water, while the circuitous road _via_ Bam is too expensive.

When more direct tracks, with wells at each stage, after the style of the Nushki-Sistan route, have been constructed between Robat and Kerman, and also between Sher-i-Nasrya and Kerman, and Sher-i-Nasrya and Yezd, matters will be immensely facilitated.

CHAPTER XVIII

Sistan's state of transition--British Consul's tact--Advancing Russian influence--Safety--A fight between Sistanis and Afghans--The Sar-tip--Major Benn's pluck and personal influence--Five Afghans seriously wounded--The city gates closed--The Customs caravanserai--A British caravanserai needed--Misstatements--Customs officials--Fair and just treatment to all--Versatile Major Benn--A much needed assistant--More Consulates wanted--Excellent British officials--Telegraph line necessary--A much-talked-of railway--The salutary effect of a garrison at Robat frontier post.

Sistan is in a state of rapid transition, and it is doubtful whether the position of the three or four Europeans on duty there is one of perfect safety. The natives are so far undoubtedly and absolutely favourable to British influence in preference to Russian, a state of affairs mainly due to the personal tact of Majors Trench and Benn rather than to instructions from home, but great caution should be exercised in the future if this prestige, now at its highest point, is to be maintained.


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