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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

In the case of the Afghan Beluch frontier


The

line of boundary to be defined from Gomal to the Persian frontier was some 800 miles, and during the two years which it took to complete the laying down of the boundary line the Mission is said to have had very great trouble with the Afghan Commissioners.

And here one can hardly forbear comparing the magnificently thorough manner in which this frontier was fixed, with the shoddy, confused method in which the Perso-Beluch frontier was "demarcated"--if the word can be used in this case--by Sir Thomas Holdich at the same epoch.

In the case of the Afghan-Beluch frontier, 800 miles of frontier line was carefully laid down under the direction of Captain (now Major) A. H. MacMahon, to whom Great Britain may be grateful for possessing to-day several hundred square miles of land more than she would have done; and, mark you, these additional square miles are--in a way--strategically the most important portion to us of Beluchistan. I am referring to that zone of flat territory, north of the Mirjawa, Saindak and Sultan Mountains, which forms a southern barrier to the Afghan desert, and along a portion of which we have now built the Nushki-Robat route.

Strategically, more particularly if a railway is to be constructed, the advantages in gaining that strip of land on the north side of the mountainous region cannot be over-estimated, and only a fearless, but extremely tactful, well-informed

and, above all, able officer like MacMahon could have scored such an unexpected success against the very shrewd Afghan Commissioners. The latter well knew the political value of the concession, and so did the Amir at Cabul--who, angered at hearing of the advantages gained by the British Commissioners for their own country, is said to have treated his representatives in a summary way on their return to the Afghan capital.

But the line of boundary was laid in an unmistakable manner. The final agreements and really _accurately_ drawn maps were signed on May 14th, 1896, by both the Afghan and British Commissioners, and there was no going back on what had been done.

One of the important results of this Boundary Commission was that we definitely drove the Afghans out of Chagai, north of which place the frontier now extends eastwards to the Sarlat Mountains. The first thing that directed attention to these remote regions was Nushki, a little district some 90 miles from Quetta--a place most conveniently situated for strategical and trade purposes. This was an outlying portion of the Khan of Kelat's territory.

As a matter of fact these people were always fighting among themselves; they had a bitter enmity with one another, and their feuds had accumulated on an ever increasing scale for centuries. They merely acknowledged the Khan's authority when it suited their ends.

The Government first requested the Khan or Kelat to keep the district in order, being a frontier district, not far from the Afghan boundary, and notified him that trouble there might involve trouble with the British Government. The Khan, however, was helpless, and the ultimate result was that the Government came to terms with the Khan and agreed to give him a quit rent of 9,000 rupees a year--a sum much larger than he ever got out of it for himself--and took over Nushki from him.


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