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It would traverse many unfertile and scantily populated tracts ;
Owing to the comparatively barren character of much of the country, the purely local traffic would be small and not sufficiently remunerative;
The line would be costly to construct;
Such objections as these are, of course, independent of the great political advantages mentioned above. They represent the more obvious criticisms which occur to anyone in considering any average railway project. But they may be noticed all the same.
That the Indo-Egyptian line would traverse quasi-tropical and here and there unproductive regions is undeniable. But that is not a serious argument against a railway. We have only to look at Upper Egypt, Transcaspia, Western Australia, Rajputana, and many other regions, to realise that quasi-deserts are per se no bar to railways, which political, administrative, or other general considerations have rendered necessary. In fact desert or desiccated tracts are often the easiest to run a railway through.
Moreover, there are oases such as that of El Juf in Northern Arabia, and elsewhere along the suggested alignment, which redeem the route from the charge of utter sterility.
Some people talk of Northern Arabia as a sheer desert, in complete ignorance of the fact that El Juf of itself can boast of 40,000 inhabitants, while Sekaka which lies only a few hours' journey to the northeast has 30,000. Consider the impulse to trade which would ensue from these two isolated but important towns being placed in communication with the Red Sea on one side and the Persian Gulf on the other.
With regard to local traffic the line would serve as an important outlet for the produce of Mesopotamia, one of the chief granaries of the ancient world, while the sixty millions of Indian Muhammadans would find a pilgrimage to the holy places of Medina and Mecca facilitated as it had never been before.
The Persian section of the line between Ahwaz, Shiraz, and Kerman, or by a more southern route (as might be decided upon after survey), would fulfil exactly what our consuls and commercial missions have been crying out for, for many years past, i.e. a means of transport for the import and export trade of the British sphere in Southern Persia. Mr. Gleadowe-Newcomen's commercial mission in 1906 laid special stress on the necessary improvement of communications, so as to open up the resources of these parts, and within the last few months Major Ducat, our Consul at Kerman, has written strongly in his report in the same sense, adding that trade between the coast and the interior is at present carried on under almost impossible conditions, which cripple both the English and Indian commerce. A project for a road from Bunder Abbas inland is now actually under consideration, and this will form a most valuable feeder to the railway. As for the Baluch section, not the least advantage would be the means it would supply of keeping in check the mischievous importation of arms and ammunition through Makran, which has encouraged the North-Western Frontier tribes to raid our territory and thus involved the Indian Government in troublesome and costly expeditions.
To the never failing stream of officials, military men, merchants, and others, as well as their families, who are continually travelling backwards and forwards between the United Kingdom and the scene of their labours, whether in India, the Straits Settlements, China or Japan, to say nothing of destinations still further afield, such as Australia and New Zealand, the saving of a week in transit would be a consideration of very great moment. As to the summer heat on the low-lying portions of the line near the Persian Gulf, it would be undoubtedly as severe as that encountered on many Indian railways. Carriages, such as those, for instance, turned out by the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway, and specially directed towards minimising tropical heat and discomfort, would certainly be used, and passengers might rely on everything to that end being provided in the case of the Indo-Egyptian line. At the same time, it must be borne in mind that the Arabian plateau is fairly high (over 1000 feet above sea-level) and particularly healthy, as I have been informed by persons who have traversed it. The Persian plateau is still higher.
As to the cost, I was furnished with an estimate some years ago, which was carefully framed by two experienced engineers who had personal knowledge of part of the region we are considering. That estimate ran to 60001. per mile; and subsequent figures, relating to the Hejaz Railway from Damascus to Medina, and to a previous undertaking from the Syrian coast to Damascus, prove that the estimate was not too low. For a total distance of 2200 miles that would work out to 13,200,0001., or, with an addition of 3,000,0001. for rolling-stock, 16,200,0001. altogether, considerably less than the cost of the Suez Canal.
The receipts are, of course, very difficult to forecast. The late Sir Henry Tyler, a man of great experience in railway matters, laid it down in his evidence before the Euphrates Valley Committee : · Calculations as to traffic are worth very little, even in a settled country, when you project a line : it is a mere guess. In almost every instance which I have ever heard of, the traffic has exceeded the calculations which have been made before the line was opened.'
Nevertheless, there are certain prominent facts which stand out. There would be a great and never-ceasing flow of first and second class passengers tramping backwards and forwards between Egypt and India, and in addition a vast number of Indian Muhammadans to whom a pilgrimage to the holy places of Arabia is as an article of faith. The total number of the followers of the Prophet in India, be it remembered, is about sixty millions. Then, again, the mails would infallibly travel by the shortest route, and the subsidy for this
would be a most important help. Last of all may be mentioned the through goods traffic to and from India, and the Mesopotamian and Persian trade. All these items, though difficult to estimate precisely, would bulk largely in the aggregate.
In connexion with the subject of Mesopotamia, it is important to notice that General Sir William Willcocks has recently been entrusted with the task of superintending the reorganisation of the ancient irrigation systems of this region. Nothing but the sheer neglect of centuries has led to the decay of one of the most extraordinarily fertile countries of the ancient world, and several English officers have testified to the fact that the restoration and proper maintenance of the old canals will bring back the productiveness, trade, and civilisation of past ages. All this would be an enormous benefit to the proposed line.
It does seem astonishing that while Russia has been at such pains to construct at gigantic cost her trans-Siberian line, so as to link up her western and eastern possessions, England should have delayed for over half a century to carry out in her own interests an analogous andertaking of still greater importance to her. The British line would be far shorter and much less expensive, and would touch the ocean at several important points en route, while the Siberian line is wholly cut off from maritime traffic, except at its very terminus, the semi-Arctic port of Vladivostock.
Undoubtedly the most practical way of dealing with this question would be for a concession to be obtained at once from Egypt and the Porte for the construction of what I call the key of the project, i.e. the line from Port Said or Ismailia to Akabah, past El Juf, to the head of the Persian Gulf. It is perfectly certain that the PersoBaluch section would not be long in following, and thus the remaining link between India and the Mediterranean would, almost automatically, drop into its appointed place.
But if a more official line of procedure should be preferred, I venture to submit that the exceptionally favourable circumstances of the present day combine to make this project far more worthy of Parliamentary investigation than the very fragmentary and incomplete scheme favoured by the Euphrates Valley Select Committee in 1872. The dawn of Constitutional Government for Turkey and the excellent relations subsisting between her and Great Britain encourage the hope that her good-will would be freely forthcoming, while the Anglo-Russian Agreement in respect of Southern Persia gives us as free a hand there as we have in Egypt or Baluchistan. In short, the present circumstances are extraordinarily favourable for the detailed examination by Select Committee of a national undertaking of the highest importance to the Empire.
CHARLES E. D. BLACK, (late in charge of the Geographical
Department, India Office).
INDIAN REFORMS: A HINDU VIEW
The Indian reforms of Lord Morley announced in the House of Lords on the 17th of December touch only a very small fraction of the 300,000,000 inhabitants of India entrusted to his lordship’s care. They directly affect only the educated classes.' According to the Times of the 26th of December, the President of the London Branch of the All India Moslem League ‘has expressed grave misgivings.' There is no satisfactory evidence forthcoming that the Hindu leaders either are satisfied with the reforms. It is true that some prominent Bengali leaders have attended a deputation to Lord Minto to thank the Government of India for 'these generous reforms.' But it must not be forgotten that after the sudden deportation of eight Bengalis the rest of my countrymen would naturally think that 'prudence is the better part of valour.' Such a sudden blow is likely to turn many an extremist into a very mild moderate—at least so long as the vibration of the shock of deportation is in the air. The dormant volcanoRegulation III. of 1818—is in action. Who knows who may next be buried in the burning lava ? My countrymen, like most other human beings, are naturally anxious to give a wide berth to the Deportation Regulation. Reuter, telegraphing from Calcutta on Christmas Eve, says : The deputation has followed quickly upon the Viceroy's appeal.' Reuter does not venture any opinion whether it was the Viceroy's appeal that facilitated the deputation, or whether the violent shock of sudden deportation had anything to do with the chorus of approbation from so many different Bengali quarters. One may not perhaps be justified in going so far as to say that admiration for the reforms has been extracted at the point of the British bayonet which took the form of deportation ; but there is no denying the fact that the recent deportations have muzzled the Bengali Press from freely criticising Lord Morley's reforms. Lord Morley has therefore lost a great opportunity of finding out how my countrymen really received his well-meaning reforms. My object is to warn the British public against putting too much faith in ‘loyal manifestoes' which emanate within a fortnight of sudden deportations of, if not the real Bengali leaders, at least some of their prominent lieutenants. Besides, the Bengali is a born lawyer. His law of inheritance, the Dayabhaga, is
a much finer specimen of jurisprudence than the Mitakshara and other schools of Hindu law in vogue outside Bengal. The Bengali at a glance sees that, after the passing of the Indian Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1908,' known as 'The Bengal Crimes Act' and * The Bengal Summary Trial Law,' the Deportation Regulation has lost a great deal of its force. The Regulation was passed while the Marquis of Hastings was Governor-General of India (1813-1823). It is practically the Anglicised form of the well-known Mogul measure called Shahr Badar, which is constantly enforced in the native States. The Native Prince simply expels the individual from his territories. The individual is at liberty to do what he likes outside the State. The East India Company improved upon the procedure. It deprived the individual of his liberty for a time. The principal reasons for deportation are to avoid unnecessary delay in removing a mischiefmaker from the scene of his activities and to prevent sensation during the trial. If the 'Summary Trial Law 'recently passed is not a 'wild-cat Bill,' it should provide against any chance of delay and undesirable discussion of a case. If it does not, it should not have been passed in an unworkable form. If, on the other hand, it is a really useful weapon, why was it not made use of in preference to the ancient Regulation III. of 1818? Only satisfactory answers to questions like these are calculated to convince my subtle countrymen of British statesmanship. British statesmen should never forget that silence on the part of the Oriental seldom means conviction. There his mental psychology differs from that of the Anglo-Saxon. That the violent shock of the recent deportation of eight Bengalis had something to do with the Bengali chorus of approbation in Calcutta is shown by the criticism in England of Lord Morley's reforms by a prominent Bengali leader. The Bengali leader in England cannot be touched by the Regulation III. of 1818. The difference between his criticism and that of his colleagues in Bengal is significant. The following paragraph reproduced from the Daily News of the 19th of December may be of some interest even to the greatest optimist;
INDIAN NATIONALIST IDEALI.-Lecturing on « The Ideals of Indian Nationalism’ at Caxton Hall last night, Mr. Bepin Chandra Pal said that things had happened in India since he undertook to deliver his lecture which made it very difficult, if not impossible, to take an impartial view of the ideals of Indian Nationalism.
What they wanted was not posts, but the power of filling them. Give them the right to appoint a Viceroy, and if one could not be found among Indians they would import one from England. They did not support tinkering reforms because they knew that they did not make for freedom.
There was, the speaker added, a conflict between foreign capital and native labour in which foreign capital was supported by an alien political authority. Exploitation and administration had gone hand in hand since the East India Company obtained power in India.
Now let us see how far Lord Morley's reforms go. No one who has a grasp of the situation in India can deny that the two great