The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 57
Importance Of The Afghan Question To The Australasian States
Importance Of The Afghan Question To The Australasian States.
The acquisition of Afghánistán by Russia would leave her paramount in the East, and enable her to absorb at will, without much reference to the power holding India, Baluchistán, Persia, and Turkey in Asia, and be the first step towards establishing her as an Eastern naval power, the magnitude of whose dominion would render India an easy prey.
The Australasian States form an European Power, with, as yet, undeveloped resources, set in the East, and from their geographical position it results that their interests are more or less bound up with the Eastern Powers of China, India, Persia, &c. The defence of Afghánistán is therefore clothed with an imperial importance of the greatest interest to the Australasian States, and its acquisition by Russia would at once compel them to prepare to resist a growing power formerly only of interest to them by reason of her far distant possessions and constant southern expansion in the north Pacific Ocean. Too little thought is given by the Australian Governments to the Eastern menace; it would be well for them to put forth their utmost strength to aid in setting it at rest once and for all, and this can be done, not by half measures, sufficient only to postpone the evil during this generation, but by measures calculated to destroy it effectually.page 25
Both the defensive and offensive power of these States have been greatly exaggerated of late by the newspapers. These statements deceive none except perhaps our very gullible selves. The difficulties of the defence of a continent, populated to any extent at a few points along its coast only, are very great, and is as likely to collapse under a severe strain as the thin crust of an empty shell, when great pressure is brought to bear upon it.
Consider for an instant the position of a strong and inimical power in the Persian Gulf, the navigation of which is safe at all seasons and with a temperature not ill-adapted to Europeans. Two rivers, navigable or capable of being easily rendered navigable, the Tigris and Euphrates, give ascess to the interior of Asiatic Turkey and Russian Caucasian resources; the Kárún is navigable to Shústar, and affords an easy road into Persia; and by, these rivers would the corn, barley, wool, &c., of vast agricultural and grazing districts be placed at the disposal of its possessor.
The mouths of the Kárún and Shatt-ál-Aráb are suitable to the establishments of arsenals and dockyards. The Gulf abounds in islands also suitable for their construction. Both shores of the Gulf are far from wanting in supplies of grain and transport, and within 100 miles inland are hilly regions suited to the cantonment of armies.
The mouth of this inland lake is but 40 miles broad at the Straits of Ormuz; and with the island of Kishm fortified and protected by a fleet of ironclads and torpedo boats—a second Sebastopol,—it would be difficult to force and be a nursery ground for predatory expeditions.
It becomes therefore of the greatest importance to our Australian Colonies to secure the impossibility of such a state of things, so counter to their interests, ever maturing to accomplishment.
How this can be done so far as Afghánistán is concerned, this paper has endeavoured to show.
The parts that other Eastern Powers can be made to play will be considered hereafter, if thought necessary and desirable. It is held, however, that no defence is of equal value to the direct defence, considered in this paper, based on India and the Persian Gulf, south of Sístán, because it depends for its success on ourselves and the application of means within our power, and can be secured against all interference and flank attacks by means within the sphere of our legitimate action but best not made too public.
Mark S. Bell.
15th May 1885.Lieutenant-Colonel.