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Herat, and Kandahar), there is indeed but one practicable route which might be turned into a great trade artery by means of a railway, and that is the one of which Russia possesses the northern outlet at Kushk. The central mountain band of Afghanistan could be bridged with no great difficulty between Kushk and Herat, but nowhere else that I know of between the Persian frontier and China. It follows, I think, from what I have said that whatever may be the capacity of the irrigated plains of Maimana or Balkh for increased production of cereals, or the smiling valleys of Badakshan for fruit-growing and silk-cultivation (and I believe in Badakshan as a province of exceptional possibilities, both for mineral and agricultural industries) the promise of it is not for India. No longer do the picturesque horse-drawn ferry-boats which ply between Kilif and the Afghan shore of the Oxus bring over their heavy consignments of silks and carpets, rugs, and embroidered goods, for the benefit of a country which is shut off from them by such a barrier as the central mountain ranges, through which and over which (were it not for the tea trade) hardly any trade would now pass at all. They have their railway within easy reach, and the products of the once wealthy Balkh plain and of the sweet valleys of Badakshan goes, equally with the trade of Bokhara, to the nearest railway, and will continue to do so. If we are to think of improved commercial relations with Afghanistan, we must think of that part of Afghanistan which lies nearest to us on our own side of the central barrier, where trade would naturally drift to such railway opportunities as we may give them on our border. It is of no use to think of Afghan Turkestan any longer.
There are two points of view from which we may regard such commercial relations. Firstly, there is the consideration of the economic development of Afghanistan for the good of Afghanistan itself; and, secondly, there is the prospect of improving our own position in India, not merely in relation to Afghanistan, but in relation to the British Empire. Both are largely questions of communication, and it will be found, I think, that they may be co-ordinated under two very simple heads, i.e., local traffic, and "through" traffic. Let us take Afghanistan for the Afghans first, and see what there is in the country which, under a Government with a more enlightened commercial policy, might be turned to useful account. By cutting off Afghan
Turkestan and Badakshan as beyond our sphere of trade influence, we limit ourselves to three great river basins, i.e., that of the Kabul, the Helmund, and the Hari Rud (or Herat) river.
The Kabul river basin includes the most beautiful if not the most fertile of the romantic valleys of Afghanistan. The great affluents from the north which find their way from the springs and glens of the Hindu Kush are as full of the interest of history as they are of the charm which ever surrounds mountain bred streams giving life to the homes of a wild and untamed people. The valleys of the Ghorband and of the Panjshir are valleys of the Hindu Kush, scooped out between the long paralle】 flexures which are the structural basis of the system. With Kohistani villages below and battlemented strongholds above, breaking here and there into widened spaces where the ancient terraces of a former river bed are streaked and lined with the artificial terraces of modern cultivation; and the thick groves of apricot and walnut trees are grouped round the base of the foothills and the walls of the scattered villages, there is no more enchanting scenery to be found in the Alps than in these vales. To the agricultural products of the valleys is to be added a certain (or uncertain) amount of mineral wealth derived from lead and copper mines; but when all is said actual measurements show that the valleys are narrow, the acreage exceedingly small, and the possibilities of further development but scanty. Remember that the peoples of ancient Khorasan (of Persia, that is to say) and of Afghanistan, rival the yet more ancient Chinese in their capacity for developing irrigation and making two blades of grass to grow where one has been before. Whether by a system of open channels drawn from a head of blocked up mountain stream, or by the more artful and complicated system of underground tunneb (called karez) which will bring subterraneous water from the superficially dry bed of a mountain nullah to irrigate flats miles away from the hills, the Afghan is only equalled by the Persian in his capacity as a practical irrigation engineer. We can teach them nothing, whilst there are many parts of the British Empire (notably in South Africa) where they could teach us a good deal. But all their ingenuity and all their labour will not largely increase the irrigable area of cropproducing land, and, in my opinion, thenarrow limits of cultivation in these northern valleys can never be much increased, and will
never be greater than is requisite for the purposes of local supply. The same may be said of the valley of the Kunar (the river that passes Chitral), which receives considerable affluents from Kaffiristan. I was the guest of the late Amir's Commander-in-Chief (Ghulam Haidar) in that valley about 10 years ago, and was struck with the ingenuity and thoroughness of a project for irrigation which he was carrying out by the aid of his Hazara Sappers for the improvement of a few square acres of terrace land adjoining the river, which had only been recently occupied by the Afghan force then concentrated on the borders of Kaffiristan. Every yard of it was wanted to support existing needs. The lower reaches of the Kunar above Jalalabad present the appearance of a widish plain full to the edge with cultivated fields. But you have only to look at the map to see how narrow the real space is in comparison to the great unproductive mountain masses which flank it. But where these rivers leave the mountains and unite (as the Ghorband and Panjshir unite at Charikar, or the Alingar and the Kabul river unite in the Lughman valley) to flow through an open wide area of plain of which the drainage is blocked by a narrow exit such as exists at the base of the Kabul and Laghman plains; and where the accumulated detritus of the ages (ages which are, however, geologically very recent) has silted up to an imposing expanse, there indeed is a wider prospect for agricultural development. Afghanistan is full of such plains. The plain of Kabul between the city and Charikar, and the plain of Lughman, are only two amongst innumerable instances. Chardeh and Maidan stretching beyond Kabul to the Hindu Kush westward, Logar and Wardak to the south of Maidan, and the wider spaces which flank the river Kabul above Dakka, are all instances of such formation, and all offer great opportunities for local agriculture. And these opportunities are most fully appreciated. Let us estimate the Afghan at his proper value. The great mass of the Afghan people are cultivators; patient, industrious, successful tillers of the soil. There are the proprietors who cultivate their own soil; tenants who take it on some system of rent; hired labourers; and, finally, slaves who cultivate for no wages at all. We must also include the professional water finders and karez makers who are usually Ghilzai of a special clan. Such a people are not likely to miss their opportunities, and, combined with their instinct for land development, they have a
faculty for trading which amply supports the claim to an Israelitish origin which the true Afghan maintains. There are two harvests in the year; the harvest of summer reaping includes wheat, barley, peas, beans, and lucerne. The autumn reaping includes rice, millet, and Indian corn. It is only in the winter that the villager puts away his spade, unslings his jezail (probably he has a good breechloader now) from the nail on the wall, and is ready for that mischief which is his recreation and delight. Besides the cereal crops, the castor oil plant, madder and asafoetida abound in some localities. As for fruit it grows in such profuse abundance that it not only forms the principal food of a large class of people throughout the year, but it forms the principal export trade besides. Nor is it to be classed as wild fruit. I have eaten apples in an orchard of a village under the shadow of the Hindu Kush; melons on the glacis of the Herat fortress; peaches in the Ghorband valley; mulberries in the orchards of the Kabul suburbs, and grapes everywhere, which are not to be matched by any European production. It is a great sight to see the fruit-laden donkeys coming in from the Kabul plain to the city, plodding their way through the green fields in summer (which turn to such inconceivable dust in winter) or picking their steps down the precipitous paths which lead up the mountain steps of towns clinging to the hill sides. There is no lovelier mountain - built town in Italy than Istalif amongst the Hindu Kush foot hills a day's march north of Kabul; there can be no softer, peacefuller, sweeter view anywhere than that across the waving, shimmering fields of wheat in early summer, when the Valley of Logar is full of the aroma of the scented willow, and the little flower-bordered rivulets and canals wander through a tangle of roses, carrying thousands of pink and white petals from the overshadowing fruit trees, wandering through the soft blue haze to the distant river, or finding a rest in the open fields; when the mountains are turned to tender shades of green and grey, and the distant villages clinging to them look faint with the coming heat of mid-day. Afghanistan then indeed looks like a veritable land of promise. But is it a promise of cominercial wealth? To a certain extent, yes-but that extent has definite limitations.
Let us turn to Central and Southern Afghanistan. A very large space of the Central Afghanistan which we are con
sidering (which you will remember has nothing to do with Afghan Turkestan) is occupied by the long spurs of the great mountain mass beyond Kabul, over which runs the high road to Bamian and the Oxus. There are other high roads, specially developed for trade purposes, to the north of Kabul, but we have no time to speak of them. They lead northward. These long spurs extend southwestwards till they reach Kandahar, and they enclose the valley of the Helmund, the Argundab, the Farah, and other rivers-all of which drain to the Helmund lagoons. All the northern parts of them, about the highly-elevated base from which they spring, possess a well-merited reputation for bleak, inhospitable, unproductive savagery There is no more unpromising land in Asia than the wind-swept home of the Hazara tribes, over a great space of its northern surface. South of the finger-ends of these radiating spurs, is the Helmund desert stretching to the Baluch frontier. There is nothing to be made out of this part of Afghanistan. East of the Hazara mountain system is the comparatively narrow plain between Ghazni and the frontier tribes which - admits of intermittent cultivation, but is still very rough and very much broken by stone-covered ridges; and west of it is Sistán and the Persian frontier. All the agricultural wealth of Central and Southern Afghanistan is concentrated in the comparatively narrow valleys which, with a south-westerly trend towards the Helmund lagoons, intersect the mountains. Beyond these is the exceedingly narrow valley of the Helmund itself, traversing the desert to its end in the lagoons-and there is nothing else to the southward. This does not seem a promising field for development. So far as mineral wealth in these geologically recent and tertiary fields is concerned I believe there is nothing important, if we except the marble quarries of the Helmund desert. But this part of Afghanistan is by no means so profitless as it appears at first sight. We must remember that it was within the embrace of these hills that the ancient capital of the kingdom, Ghor, once stood, and the ancient trees and extent of walled ruins still existing about Taiwara certify to its importance in days gone by. There is little but ruins now about the site of Ghor; but it does appear as if for once the Afghan had neglected his opportunities for re-development. South of Ghor, about the southern ends of the long spurs, there is beyond doubt some of the richest land in Afghanistan. Indeed it may be doubted
whether the agricultural wealth of the lower Argandab (which makes Kandahar), of Zamin. dawar, of Farah, of Sabzawar, and of the narrow Helmund valley, when added to the carpet-making industries of Anardarra, do not equal those of the Kabul valley and Logar and Wardak. To put it shortly, the agricultural and commercial wealth of Southern Afghanistan is considerable, and it is concentrated on the road connecting Herat with Kandahar. Finally, we have to consider the valley of Herat, a valley which is full of flourishing villages and of well-developed cultivation throughout that part of it which can be made subject to irrigation. But that part has very definite limits, and I think that the impression made by the magnificent vista of green cultivation and extensive orchards which may be obtained from the walls of the town, contrasted with the comparative sterility of its surroundings, has led to an exaggerated idea of its wealth. At least, the conclusion which we arrived at after collecting such information as was available on the spot in 1886 placed very definite limits indeed to its powers of supply in case of military need.
Such, then, in very wide and general terms, are the agricultural conditions of Afghanistan, and of them, it may be said, referring to the whole country, that its productiveness in agriculture is not much in excess of its local needs. The requirements of its own population absorb nearly all its produce and leave little but fruit to be made available for the benefit of the outside world. Nor is there in the opinion of expert geologists much to be hoped for in mining developments. But if we turn from agriculture and minerals to manufactures, we find them important, and to these might be added a trade in horses which could be very largely developed much to the benefit of India if the Amir's restrictions permitted it. The largest opportunities for improvement appear to be in wool production. I have already explained that the possibilities of agriculture are restricted to the valleys, but beyond the valley is the mountain area Covering three-fourths of the country, some of which, at least, is specially favourable for sheep pasturage. This is notoriously the case in the south, where the sheep of Baluchistan have been famous in history for their wool. Until the boundaries between Persia and Afghanistan were freed from the effects of periodic raids and the perpetual lifting of flocks and herds, it was impossible to expect pastoral developinents along that frontier. But it is
precisely that frontier, with its intermittent expanses of open dasht (or talus) rising to the ridges of a disintegrating mountain system, which is most favourable to sheep farming; and it can hardly be doubted that it has largely developed during the last ten years of peaceful occupation, although even now the boundary is not recognised as undisputed. Throughout the whole length and breadth of Afghanistan I have seen no part of it which I consider so open to general improvement in the direction of either pasture or agriculture as these hills and plains of the Persian frontier.
Nevertheless, when all is said it must, I think, be admitted that regarding the commercial question from the local point of view alone, there is not enough to justify any large outlay in the improvement of communications by railway construction for the benefit of Afghan trade. We should not carry a railway through the difficult defiles of the Mohmand country to Kabul merely to bring down fruit to Peshawar. Nor should we advocate a southern extension of the Sind-Pishin line (although it would carry more promise with it) simply for the benefit of the Achakzai shepherds of Zamindawar, or the Tajik agriculturists of Herat. We might be reminded that commercial relations with Sistan have not proved a success; but that is not really a case in point; for Sistan is small and insignificant compared to Southern Afghanistan, and the desert journey between Sistan and Nushki is long, and there is but a poor market at Quetta, when it is finally reached. Let us now turn briefly to the other view of our commercial relations with Afghanistan—the Imperial view, and the possibilities of advantage to the British Empire.
Into the strategical question we have not time (even if this were the place) to enter. Briefly, it may be summed up in this, that we may be compelled one day to hold Jalalabad on the north, and Kandahar on the south, and that a railway to either place would become a strategical necessity. But I look on this strategic necessity as a long way off at present, and am not in the least prepared to advocate railways on such principles. But I am an advocate for a comparatively short and easy connection between the Russian and Indian railway systems, which, passing through that part of Afghanistan which holds out the best hope of local commercial development, would unite civilised East and West by the first great iron link that the world has ever seen. I do not suppose that there is anyone here who would not be an advocate for a policy of good under
standing with all our European neighbours. We do not want to be in a perpetual condition of simmering agitation about the expansion of Russia, which will certainly continue to expand, impelled by a principle of national development which is common to all nations of the world, until it reaches its natural and inevitable limit. Nor do I think we need be nervous about where and when that limit will be found. Year by year we are ourselves approaching our own limits, just as Russia is approaching hers. Year by year, too, is the principle that it concerns all nations to maintain the balance of power evenly by means of peaceful negotiation rather than by force of arms becoming more and more the business principle of the world's diplomacy. It is, to my humble thinking, but a natural phase of human evolution which will certainly prevail in the end-an end which seems as if it were almost within measurable distance already. When two great rival republics in South America, armed to the teeth for a final struggle for supremacy, are content at the last moment to appeal to a business arbitration and abandon their own hereditary instincts for a free fight in favour of free intercommunication and a better knowledge of each other in the peaceful walks of life, I regard it as a notable sign of the times. I certainly regard facilities for intercommunication, and the better and wider international understanding which inevitably follows it, as one of the great peace agencies of the world, and I cannot understand those who think that because the way is open and plain between your neighbour's home and your own, and you have come to know him and he, you, that it must eventually lead to burglary on the one side or the other. I know that some of our best and cleverest authorities on Afghan politics look on railway connection as offering a fatal opportunity to Russia to invade India. But this is a military question; and I deny that any single line of railway can be made an efficient instrument for defence on one side without it being equally efficient for defence on the other; and I also think that in our ignorance of Russian frontier politics we are crediting her with a little too much foolishness when we assume that she is prepared in these latter days for such a terribly hazardous venture as a movement on India. She knows our strength better perhaps than we do ourselves. However, setting aside these political and military considerations, and setting aside local Afghan interests, we shall, I am sure, be all