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present year, and it is for the Governments of countries like England and Germany, who have no other ambition than the peaceful development of their commerce with Persia, to decide upon an acquiescence in, or a resistance to, a renewal of an agreement which would seem hardly compatible with the equal rights of commercial nations in Eastern countries.
Another railway regarding which I would say a few words is that for which the German Government has obtained a concession, and which is the continuation of the Asia Minor line, and which is now to be continued to Baghdad, and possibly to a port called Koweit, on the Arabian shore of the Persian Gulf, though this extension. is still in doubt. I, for my part, do not hesitate to cordially welcome the advent of Germany into Asia Minor and the East. I can see for England nothing but advantage in the co-operation of Germany, which co-operation I believe will not be altogether and for ever delayed. It is a very good thing to have a third great Power competing in the East, where two, for ever face to face, are apt, most unfortunately, to develop a dangerous spirit of rivalry and hostility. With regard to Germany, although at the present moment there is no doubt an exceedingly bitter feeling against England, an irritation so illogical as to be ridiculous, yet the Emperor of Germany, who is a warm friend of this country, and who is the cleverest man in his dominions, thoroughly understands that the future of German interests demands a sensible understanding with England. I have no doubt that before very long his people will accept his view as reasonable, and that the entry of Germany into the Asian field will be for the future advantage of both countries.
The only other question regarding regarding railways which requires notice, because it has been prominently before the public within the last few weeks, is that of connecting the Indian railways with those of Russia on the North, or Germany in the South. I understand that an able and accomplished member of Parliament, Mr. Maclean, has
advocated such a connection at a lecture at the Imperial Institute, and he asked a question about it in the House of Commons the other night. Whatever petty and problematical advantages might accrue from such a union, I would nevertheless say that the proposal is too ridiculous for discussion. I will not speak of strategic problems or of possible enemies in the East, which are outside the purpose of this paper, and, moreover, I believe that India will be able to take very good care of herself should she ever be attacked; but I would say that on commercial grounds there could be nothing more imbecile than to surrender the supremacy- the absolute supremacy-that we have in the command of the sea-carrying trade of the world by making railways through Afghanistan, Persia, and Baluchistan in order to favour our trade rivals. No; so long as we have the command of the sea, commercially as well as in a naval sense, let us at any rate avoid the imbecility of constructing railways to convey the trade of Protectionist rivals into our Indian Empire. Besides this, we must consider and respect the susceptibilities of His Highness the Ameer of Afghanistan, our very good and very loyal ally, who most strongly objects, and I think objects on excellent grounds, to the introduction of railways into his dominions.
Regarding the Persian Gulf I do not desire to say more than a few words, because in my opinion this question must be left in the strong hands of the Government. Our position there has been founded on a consistent policy, on sacrifices and expenditure through a great number of years. We have for long been supreme in the Gulf. We constitute its police, and have maintained the Pax Britannica for the advantage of all the trading world; we are bound by engagements and treaties to almost all the chiefs of the Arab tribes on the southern coast. We have held from time to time many of the more important points on the Persian coast; we have treaty rights or occupation over some of them still; and with the remembrance of our conflicts there with Dutch and Portuguese and Arabs throughout the
whole of this century, I do not think that it is possible. to assume that any British Government will allow our supremacy in the Gulf to be shaken or diminished.
The climate of the Persian Gulf is itself somewhat of a protection against European occupation. It is not a place to which we would willingly send any but our worst enemies. In Milton's poem Satan expressed the opinion that it was better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven, but I doubt if he would care to exchange thrones with the Sultan of Muscat, for example. The heat in that town is of the most tremendous description, the thermometer rising to 189° Fahrenheit, and we have withdrawn from several points of vantage on the Persian Gulf, such as Bandarabbas and Kishm, not because we were compelled by force majeure, but that even our native soldiers could not endure the intolerable climate. So that I do not imagine that there will be any very large rush of competitors to take our place on this undesirable coast.
I would express my conviction that although the future of Persia cannot be expected to equal its illustrious past, because climatic change as well as the devastating effects of invasion and tyranny have altered the characteristics of the country in a remarkable degree, yet, with a reasonable. share of honest administration, and by the assistance of foreign capital, judiciously applied, Persia will recover much of her old prosperity. I have been intimately acquainted and connected with Persian affairs for the last ten years, and I can see a strong tide of improvement in many directions, and industries which were falling into decay are steadily improving. improving. We know from reports which reach us from every quarter that there is progress. Silk cultivation, which was in the Middle Ages of so much importance in Persia, and which had fallen into insignificance, has in the last few years increased largely. A Greek firm was the first to start a factory; French houses at Lyons followed, with Armenians and local firms, and in the marshy province of Gilan, on the Caspian, where Resht is
situated, the silk production has doubled within the last two years. Opium cultivation is continually increasing in extent and value, and even the Japanese have agents in Persia to buy a particular opium, which is preferred to all others by their new subjects in Formosa. The production of wool and cotton has also lately doubled, and the value of land is reported to have risen 40 to 50 per cent. I possess a report from a gentleman whose work deserves acknowledgment-Mr. Naus, a Belgian, who was engaged by the Persian Government to undertake the reorganization of the Customs of Persia. To show what can be done by honest administration, the suppression of bribery, and the unification of rates, which was inaugurated by the Imperial Bank when it collected Customs in 1898, he has succeeded in a year and a half in doubling the Customs revenue of Persia, or certainly next year it will be doubled. This week some twelve more Belgian employés have arrived in Teheran, and are being distributed to the various collecting posts. The English Government has not only made no opposition to this gentleman's employment, but has been exceedingly pleased to see the quality of his work; and the Bank of Persia has nothing but good to say of the assistance which he has rendered to them.
I have endeavoured to point out to my readers that the idea that Russia has obtained any great or preponderating advantage by this loan is chimerical. A loan of the same character was offered and not accepted in London. Its present acceptance by Russia, if it were directed against anybody at all, was a gentle hint to the Germans, whose Constantinople concession of the railway to Baghdad, by the personal influence of the German. Emperor, has caused extreme irritation at St. Petersburg, that they were not to be allowed without dispute to give themselves airs in Asia Minor. It was not directed against England, in my opinion, in any way; and certainly for some years past our relations in Persia with the Russian Legation have been, putting commercial rivalry aside, of
an entirely friendly character. But England does not dread or resent such rivalry. What I want, then, to press upon English merchants and financiers is this. You lend your money to everybody in the world who applies for it. You have financed all the bankrupt States of Europe and of South America, with English money. Try Persia as a field for investment-not, I say, for wildcat, bogus schemes or concessions, but for sound honest enterprises which will benefit the Empire of the Shah, and at the same time bring a reasonable and good return to the investors. And if you would ask me to name such possible schemes, or those certainly or probably successful, I would at once mention one or two to you. In the first place, there is the irrigation of that vast tract of land, extending some 160 miles from the sea, on both banks of the Karun River. The opening of that river to navigation to the whole world was obtained by England, not for herself alone, but for everyone equally, and very little has yet been done, except by an enterprising firm, Messrs. Lynch and Co., whose name deserves all honour in Persia, and who are now endeavouring to improve the road through the mountainous Bakhtiâri country at their own expense. I say this great tract of country can with irrigation be made equal to the Delta of the Nile. The late Shah favoured this scheme, although he was rather nervous about the importation of foreign labour to work it; but he was anxious that it should be carried out, and he saw the immense advantage that it would be for his kingdom. This, however, still remains to be done, and it is for English engineers to accomplish. The millions that would be received by the Persian Government from a work like this would, by a percentage on the returns, bring most ample profits to the English investors. The English, who have turned Egypt again into the rich province that it was in the time of the Romans, who have saved India from famine in those districts where it was possible to save her, by irrigation works, can surely do this great work for Persia,