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with the interests of the country, “which had not yet overstrained its financial capacity, but which was running the risk of doing so if public expenditure, without the support of improving times, went on increasing at the same rate as had been the case during the last ten to fifteen years.” The aggregate national expenditure, the committee pointed out, had been about doubled during the last fifteen years, and although the national credit had been unaffected by the many national loans of the last few years, that fact was due to their having been applied to "material development,” while the ordinary expenditure had, on the whole, been covered by the ordinary revenue. The State had expended an aggregate of 130,000,000 kr. on railways, of which the direct annual revenue amounted to only 1,500,000 kr., whilst the interest on the capital amounted to more than 5,000,000 kr. It was therefore desirable that the revenue of the railways should increase. The financial result of the Kongsberg Silver Works (State property) was not satisfactory, and the expenditure of the Legislature was steadily increasing.
The financial discussion commenced in the Storthing on October 28, and a number of Members spoke at great length. Professor Hagerup, in the course of a very able and comprehensive speech, took a somewhat gloomy view of the future, and thought the Government would in all probability have to introduce increased taxation beyond that included in the Budget now under consideration.
A new State loan of 35,000,000 kr. was ultimately proposed and accepted by the Storthing on December 17, the interest not to exceed 3per cent., to be repaid within sixty years. The Opposition proposed to limit the loan to 30,000,000 kr., but the committee's proposal was carried against thirty-five votes.
Towards the end of the year a change took place in the Ministry, M. Sparre being made Admiral-in-Chief, and M. Gunnar Knudsen being appointed, in succession to him, Minister, or member of the Norwegian Council of State, domiciled in Stockholm.
The municipal election in Christiania attracted much attention, more especially on account of its being the first time the new suffrage regulations came into operation. In spite of the extended suffrage the result was a victory for the Conservatives, who polled a total of 15,017 votes, giving them 47 seats on the Municipal Board against 43 in the previous Town Council. The Left polled 5,150 votes (16 seats), the Socialists 4,485 (14 seats), the Teetotallers 930 (3 seats), the Democrats 874 (2 seats), and the non-political list was supported by 700 votes (2 seats).
I. ASIA (SOUTHERN).
ve been the ya Bin Luik, whon Bin But 10
PERSIA. By the Russo-Persian Treaty Russia obtained the right to establish branches of the Russian Imperial Bank in Persia, and one was opened at Resht with considerable ceremony in November last.
The existence of a widespread revolutionary movement was reported earlier in the year, owing to the Government having entered into loan negotiations with Russia, and it was said that the Grand Vizier had incurred great unpopularity for selling his country, and that a minor state of siege had been proclaimed in Teheran. This was officially denied by the Persian Legation in London. On the other hand, Persia raised the duty on Russian imports to 5 per cent., and has imposed a similar duty on exports to that country.
A Convention was signed between the Persian and British Governments for the construction of a three-wire telegraph line from Kashan to British Baluchistan via Yezd, Kirman and Bampur.
The most important events of 1901 in South-Western Asia have been those connected with Koweit in the Persian Gulf. Early in the year hostilities broke out between Mabarik, Sheikh of Koweit, and Bin Rashid, who called himself King of Arabia. At the outset Mabarik, whose troops were the better armed, inflicted a severe defeat upon Bin Rashid, conquered his kingdom of Nejd, and deposed him. But in a subsequent engagement Mabarik was defeated in a battle or rather an ambuscade, in which 5,000 men were said to have fallen, and retired in disorder to his own territory. He was then threatened with invasion by Bin Rashid, and a considerable Turkish force was collected not far from his borders. He appealed for protection to the Indian Government and a British warship prevented the landing of another body of Turkish troops.
Diplomatic explanations followed, and it was said that the Turkish troops were intended for the protection of Mabarik and to act against Bin Rashid, who had usurped the authority of the Sultan by calling himself King of Arabia. The Turkish troops were withdrawn, but towards the close of the year it was said that the Sultan was making great efforts to induce the Sheikh of Koweit to recognise his suzerainty.
The contest between Mabarik and Bin Rashid is of importance only from the danger of its bringing into the field greater Powers, especially England and Russia. The paramount influence of England in the Persian Gulf has been tacitly assumed rather than expressly acknowledged by other Powers; the protection given to Mabarik is regarded as an open assertion of the British claim, and as evidence of an intention to turn Koweit into a British port. Other Powers are claiming as compensation ports for themselves, and Russia in particular wants Bunder Abas.
For many years past a strong religious revival has been in progress throughout the Mahomedan world : the Sultan has joined in it heartily, and it is his great desire to be recognised as the head of Islam, not indeed as its spiritual head, which would be contrary to the whole spirit of the religion, but as Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the Faithful. His claim to suzerainty over Koweit is no doubt mainly due to this desire; but whatever may be his motive it is obvious that the claim can be utilised by the Powers who have influence over Turkey for the purpose of obtaining the concessions they desire.
BALUCHISTAN. The most noteworthy fact connected with Baluchistan during the past year has been the opening up of the trade route between Quetta and Persia, via Nushki and Seistan. A railway from Quetta to Nushki, a distance of ninety miles, has been sanctioned, and the road has been completed in the rough in Seistan. Owing to the perseverance and energy of Captain Webb-Ware, the great desert which lies along most of the route has been overcome; fortified serais have been built for the shelter of travellers, and wells have been dug along the whole way. A considerable development of trade has already taken place, its value, which in 1898-9 was only 77 lakhs, rose in 1899-1900 to 13 lakhs, and the returns for last year show an increase of 45,0001. The shortsighted fiscal policy of the late Amir of Kabul, which choked our trade from Quetta to Meshed via Kandahar, has really worked for our good, for it has caused us to make a road through our own territory, as Baluchistan, including Nushki, may now be called, into Persia.
AFGHANISTAN. The death of the Amir at Kabul in September, 1901, is an event of such importance that all minor matters connected with the history of Afghanistan during the year must pass unnoticed. According to his autobiography Abdul Rahman was born in 1844, but he was probably some four years older than he wished us to believe. In his early life, when a young man of eighteen, he filled several important posts with ability and distinction, and was the main prop of his uncle, Mohammed Azim Khan, against his rival Sher Ali. On the final defeat of Azim Khan Abdul Rahmán fled to Turkestan and lived there as a Russian pensioner until 1880, when he was brought forward by Sir Lepel Griffin and accepted as Amir by the British Government and placed on the throne of Kabul. His position was at first a precarious one, but he was a man of great ability, energy
and force of character, and he triumphed over all difficulties. His method of Government cannot be judged by a European standard; it was briefly one of crushing all opposition by terror and force, and sometimes by savage cruelty. But Abdul Rahman was far from being a mere tyrant; he had constantly before him a distinct and a worthy object, that of not only firmly establishing his own power and dynasty, but also of rendering his country united, independent and prosperous. How far he succeeded in this policy can be seen not only from his autobiography, which no doubt gives us an exaggerated picture of his success, but also from the evidence of Europeans who have resided in or visited Kabul. During his reign of twenty years he effectually got rid of all possible rivals or persons likely to give trouble; he transformed his Army from a mere rabble into a well-armed and efficient force; religious fanaticism was brought under control, a regular system of judicial and general administration was created, and the industries of the country were greatly developed by the establishment of factories under European supervision at Kabul. As regards his foreign policy. he could hardly be expected to have any real love for England. His ideal would have been a really independent Mahomedan Kingdom, free from the control or influence alike of England and of Russia, and he was much disappointed at the failure of his efforts to be allowed direct representation at the Court of St. James. But, although there was occasional friction between the Amir and the Government of India, he fully recog. nised the value of the English alliance and was faithful to it.
His eldest son, Habibullah Khan, has succeeded to the Throne with an absence of disturbance or even excitement that was almost unexpected. He was born in 1872, and is, therefore, & man of between twenty-nine and thirty. He has been carefully trained by his father in all branches of the administration. Since 1897 he has had control of the State Treasury and Exchequer, and has been the Supreme Court of Appeal from all courts, ecclesiastical and secular. He acted as Regent for his father during his prolonged absence in Turkestan, and distinguished himself by the intelligence and sobriety of his administration. He is said to be popular with the people and with the Army; he knows English fairly well and is believed to entertain very friendly sentiments towards the British Government. Since his accession he has raised the pay of the Army, and he is said to be going to adopt a much more liberal trade policy than his father and to reduce the poll tax on Hindus. His reception of Mahomedan gentlemen sent by the Government of India in November last to condole with him on the death of his father and to congratulate him on his own accession was cordial in the extreme. He has also issued a proclamation inviting the return of exiles from India, and probably many of them will go back.
The new Amir may be said to have started well, and his
father and to madopt a much more on the Army
immediate prospects are decidedly favourable. The possible competitors for the Throne are few in number, and none of them are at present dangerous. Habibullah Khan's position was much strengthened by the marriages his father made for him with the families of the leading chiefs. Nasrullah Khan, the late Amir's next son, is his full brother, and is destitute of ability, ambition or influence. His half-brother, Mahomed Umar, whose mother is of high rank and of much ability and ambition, might give trouble, but he is only a boy of twelve, and his mother's great supporter, the Commander-in-Chief, Ghulâm Haidar Khan, has lately died. The nearest collateral heir is Ishák Khan, the son of the drunken and cowardly Amir, Azim Khan, and consequently the first cousin once removed of the new Amir. Much was heard of him in his early days, he was notorious for his debauchery and cruelty, and he was hated in Kabul, where he was regarded as a maniac. The late Amir endeavoured to conciliate him, but he rebelled against him, and after showing conspicuous cowardice and incompetency fled to Russian territory. He is now a man of fifty; he is not likely to attempt, or to be allowed to attempt, any movement, and should he do so, he would hardly be dangerous. The two sons of the Amir Sher Ali Khan, Yakub Khan, born about 1849, who was allowed to succeed his father, but was deposed for not preventing Cavagnari's murder, and Ayub Khan, born 1857, who defeated us at Maiwand, are still political prisoners in India, and are not likely to be let loose.
THE FRONTIER. On the North-West Frontier our only serious trouble during 1901 has been with the Mahsud Waziris. The tribe which occupies the hilly country to the west of the Dera Ismail Khan district, known as Waziristan, had been fined a lakh of rupees, or rather this sum had been fixed as a composition for accumulated offences; the tribesmen had paid about 70,000 rupees, but were unable or unwilling to pay the balance. They were therefore blockaded, that is, all commercial and other intercourse between them and British territory was stopped. In the latter part of the year, in consequence of fresh and serious outrages, the blockade was supplemented by short punitive expeditions ; columns entered the country in various directions, destroyed villages and crops and then retired. It appears that an expedition on a large scale was contemplated by the military authorities, and that reserve brigades were ordered to assemble. This was, however, stopped by a peremptory telegram from the Viceroy, who was then on his tour in Burmah, and at the close of the year matters were still in statu quo. Shortly before the Amir's death many of the Jajis of Khost (his subjects beyond our Durand line) sought an asylum in Kurram. Habibullah Khan has since his father's death been conciliating them, and it is to be hoped they will all go back.