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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Including purchase of the Kasvin Teheran section


There is, unfortunately, a class of Englishmen--especially in India--who have Russia on the brain, and those people see the Russian everywhere and in everything. Every humble globe-trotter in India must be a Russian spy--even though he be an Englishman--and much is talked about a Russian invasion of India, through Tibet, through Afghanistan, Persia or Beluchistan.

To any one happening to know these countries it is almost heartrending to hear such nonsense, and worse still to see it repeated in serious papers, which reproduce and comment upon it gravely for the benefit of the public.

In explanation, and without going into many details, I will only mention the fact that it is more difficult than it sounds for armies--even for the sturdy Russian soldier--to march hundreds of miles across deserts without water for men and animals, or over a high plateau like Tibet, where (although suggested by the wise newspaper Englishman at home as a sanatorium for British troops in India) the terrific climate, great altitudes, lack of fuel, and a few other such trifles would reduce even the largest European army into a very humble one at the end of a journey across it.

Then people seem to be ignorant of the fact that, with a mountainous natural frontier like the Himahlyas, a Maxim gun or two above each of the few passable passes would bring to reason any army--allowing that it could get thus

far--that intended to cross over into India!

But, besides, have we not got soldiers to defend India? Why should we fear the Russians? Are we not as good as they are? Why should we ever encourage the so far unconcerned Russian to come to India by showing our fear? It is neither manly nor has it any sense in it. The Russian has no designs whatever upon India at present--he does not even dream of advancing on India--but should India eventually fall into Russia's hands--which is not probable--believe me, it will never be by a Russian army marching into India from the north, or north-west, or west. The danger, if there is any, may be found probably very much nearer home, in our own ignorance and blindness.

We also hear much about the infamy of Russia in placing a tariff on all goods in transit for Persia, and we are told that this is another blow directed at English trade. Such is not the case. Russia, I am told by people who ought to know, would be only too glad to come to an understanding with England on some sensible basis, but she certainly is not quite so unwise as we are in letting Germany, her real enemy, swamp her market with cheap goods. The tariff is chiefly a protection against Germany. Of course, if we choose to help Germany to ruin Russia's markets as well as our own, then we must suffer in consequence, but looking ahead towards the future of Asia, it might possibly not be unwise to come to some sensible arrangement with Russia, by which her commercial interests and ours would mutually benefit instead of suffering as they do at present.

In Persia we are playing a rapidly losing game. Commercially, as I have already said, we have lost Northern Persia, and Russian influence is fast advancing in Southern Persia. This is surely the time to pull up and change our tactics, or we shall go to the wall altogether.

As Mr. Joseph Walton, M.P., very ably put it before the House of Commons on January 22nd, 1902, in the case of Russia we have at present to contend with abnormal conditions of competition. It would therefore be wise for the British Government to reconsider its policy in order to maintain, at least, our commercial interests in Southern Persia. The Government of India, too, should take its share in upholding British interests--being directly concerned in affairs that regard the welfare of Persia. Russia has gone to great expense to construct two excellent roads from the north into Persia to facilitate Russian commerce, and it would be advisable if we were to do the same from the south. (One of the roads, the Piri Bazaar--Kasvin Road, is said to have cost, including purchase of the Kasvin Teheran section, something like half a million sterling). It is indeed idle, as Mr. Walton said, to adhere to methods of the past when foreign Governments are adopting modern methods in order to achieve the commercial conquest of new regions.


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