“The powerful countries change and alter the facts of history to suit their needs and provide a depth to their claims. It is the responsibility of the historians not to let the facts be distorted or misplaced. When history is distorted, the society clashes.” Raja Mujtaba
By Naveed Tajammal
In 1853 The British forced the Persian Government to sign yet another treaty with them, the focus now was ‘Herat’, the eventual cause, which had led to the First Afghan War, a background to which is a must, before proceeding further, in the early 19th century the Russian threat to British Indian Possessions, was foremost, it should be remembered that till 1838,the Russian boundary in Asia ran from the North-East corner of the sea of Khazar’s [caspian sea] up the Ural river to Orenburg and so eastwards.
The British on the other hand were still Cis-Sutlej, Ranjit Singh’s state had to be annexed. Persia keeping in view her geographic location was very vital for the future forward policies of the British Indian Empire. Earlier too in 1805 when Napoleon had declared war on Russia, the French who were always an arch enemy of British, had sent their envoy to Tehran, with an offer to restore the lost province of Georgia’ back to Persians by means of a French Army only if the Shah of Persia revoked his British alliance and joined the French in a invasion of British India across Khorassan [Afghanistan]. Fateh Ali Shah feared the French as he saw in them a people who had only recently executed their monarch and most of their Aristocracy in the French Revolution, thus he looked towards British for a better offer. The Parleys between Persia-Calcutta-Whitehall [London] took their own Time and the French envoy kept the full pressure on the Shah, who gave in to the French Demand of being part of a joint invasion of British India, via Herat and Kandahar. Napoleon meanwhile signed a treaty with Czar of Russia at Tilsit, in which no mention was made of restoration of Georgia to Persians, The Shah of Persia did a U-turn and returned back in the fold of British.
In 1853,the treaty signed between Britain and Persia was very clear about ”Herat’, The words drafted were very clear;” that the Persian Government never had, nor will ever have, any idea of taking possession, assuming the sovereignty, or governing either Herat’ or the Herat’ territory, or its people, and will not interfere in any manner whatsoever in the internal affairs of Herat’, so that they may remain independent in their own country and manage their own affairs, without interference of anyone………..”.
The British by this treaty created yet another forward buffer state, against Russia, by granting independence to Herat, however in March 1857, a need arose for a fresh treaty, again focused on Herat affairs, as per article 6 of this Treaty-The Shah of Persia relinquished all claims to the territory and City of Herat and countries around it..Article 11-Covered all ”Pecuniary Claims of all British subjects upon the Government of Persia-to be paid within a year’.
Herat later was taken over by the Amir of Kabul on 27 May 1863, and thereafter annexed with Kabul.
The invention of Telegraph, was another reason why British were keen to maintain good relations with the Shah of Persia; from 1861 onwards, a series of Treaties were signed between Persia and British, so that the Telegraph line passing along the coast line of Persian Gulf was well guarded, The Russians had another rival multi-national company in the same business i.e. Messers Siemens [The Indo-European Telegraph Company] which till the end of Czars rule in Russia operated under Russian Protection, only after soviets took over did they change sides and moved under the British Protection, So we see the emergence of multi-national mother companies, once again in 19th century [old multi-national trading companies like the East India Company, having been taken over by their states],however it was the Telegraph Convention signed with King of Persia and Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain, in 1865,which brought the British as the Guardians of the Persian Gulf, along with the land line, a submarine cable was as well laid along the Persian Gulf Coast line.
The Russians seem to emerge masters of manipulation they never let a opportunity lapse to create problems for the British, the best example can of the incident of Ayub Khan son of Sher Ali and onetime king of Afghanistan[Oct 1879-May 1880],who had taken refuge in Persia in October 1881,and was kept interned in Tehran under an agreement concluded on 17 April 1884,between Britain andPersia with a hefty pension of £8000/- per annum to be paid by the crown, Ayub Khan on prompting of Russians and with the help of Yahya Khan, The Persian Minister for foreign affairs, escaped from Tehran with a aim to return back to Afghanistan and raise a revolt against Amir Abdur Rehman, with the help of Russians, as well keep the old interests of Persians in view focused on Herat, Ayub Khan’s futile attempt failed, and he returned back to Meshad, and surrendered himself to the British Consul-General at Meshad, in November 1884, to keep a close watch on him, as well remove him from the orbit of the Russians, Ayub Khan was first sent to the Turkish Frontier and later via Baghdad sent to British India.
Even in the late 19th Century the Russians and British had a very strong grip in the internal affairs of Persia, The Shah of Persia as is seen, all along, had No Will of his own, if he went Against British it was on the behest of Russians or vice versa, After the Assassination of Nassir ud din, who had ruled for almost 50 years, his son Muzzfar ud din who was Governor of Azerbiajan, and resided in Tabriz ,came to Tehran accompanied, by Russian and British Counsels to be enthroned on Tehran Throne on 1st May 1896,so we see the Position, Power and Prestige of Persian monarch, was that of a Puppet. The new Shah of Persia was bankrupt the state of Persia even did Not have a Million pounds to pay salaries to its Army or thousands of state functionaries, the shah of Persia had requested London Capitalists for a loan to run his state, these vultures were always every ready provided the returns were ensured, so they agreed in principle to lend him £1,250,000 /- @ 5% on a guarantee that ,the custom houses of Fars province [actual Persia]as well of all ports on the Persian gulf be handed over to the London investors, however they would deduct from this loan a sum of £225,000 /-,as first payment due, and give a loan of £ 1,025,000 /-The affairs of the state of Persia were so poor that the Persian’s agreed, However the contract could not be signed, the Russians came up with a better offer, and gave them 22.5 million rubles loan [ £ 2,400,000] @ 5% and placed their own agents as cashiers, on the custom posts, throughout Persia, but for those in Fars and along the gulf, as they were with London investors who had meanwhile earlier given Persians a loan of just £50,000/- at 6% .
The Shah of Persia in 1902 was awarded the ‘Order of Garter by King Edward 7th,through a mission sent to Tehran headed by Viscount Downe, and the ceremony took place on 2nd February 1903,But here we must pause and study what this Order of Garter is ? “The Order of Garter” meaning thereby, “the prime order of Christendom “ was awarded to the following five: The Prelate, or the Bishop of Winchester: The Chancellor, the Registrar, the King of Arms, or the Chief Herald (servant) at Windsor, the seat of the British Monarch, and lastly to the Usher, the man in charge of the “black rod:”An ebony stick which had a gold top of lion, the symbol of British Monarchy. The Usher was the Sergeant at Arms of the monarch in the House of Lords. One need not add here more as to position in which British held The Shah of Persia.
A week later after this award, a new Commercial Treaty between Britain and Persia was signed by virtue of which reforms in the customs were secured meaning raise in taxes, and Persians were placed in the category, of ”Most -Favoured-Nation’.
In 1903 the British started the survey of interior Persia to see the potential of its future investments, This was done by the British Board of Trade, and a similar mission was sent to Southern Persia under the wings of the ‘Upper India Chamber of Commerce’, The Bengal Chamber and The Indian Tea-Cess Company, the conclusion reached was that the best policy to earn maximum on investments in the future trade, could only be done under Russo-British Convention by dividing Persia into ‘Spheres of Influence’. This Convention was signed on 31st August 1907,the salient features of this accord were that lines were drawn on the Map of Persia dividing it in the Spheres earlier mentioned with a buffer or neutral zone.
Which Technically meant the Sovereignty of Persia ceased to Exist.
The Persian Government was very liberal in her Foreign Concessions, that of the whole Caspian sea fisheries netting was granted to a Russian, M. Lainozon, which continued till 1919,however even the soviets took further concessions and it was only in 1927,a joint Russo-Persian association emerged, Baron Reuter had got a concession grant of 60 years of the Imperial Bank of Persia, which was established under a British Royal Charter in 1889,among other concessions were the issue of bank notes which should be a legal tender; the service of the treasury; and the rights of mining, iron, copper, lead, mercury etc in all Persia.
The Railway lines too awarded with the consent of Russian and British Governments in 1891,the same was the case of Carriage Roads, which were likewise awarded with consent of both Governments mentioned above, in 1890 Jacques Poliakoff of St. Petersburg obtained a concession for a loan Bank, which was in reality a agency of the Russian, State Bank. In 1895,the French Government obtained a jackpot concession from the Persian Government, which granted them in perpetuity the exclusive right of searching for objects of antiquarian interests in Persia. In 1901 Mr. William Knox D’Arcy secured an exclusive concession for exploitation of natural gas, petroleum, asphalt and ozokerite throughout the Persian state territories with exception of five provinces of Gilan, Mazandran, Khorassan, Astrabad and Azerbaijan, this concession was for 60 years and covered a area of 500,000 Square miles, in 1909 a company known as Anglo-Persian Oil Company was formed to take over and operate this concession.
Lastly it would be pertinent to note, that Persia since its rise under Safavid and as we see till now early 20th Century survived purely as a Buffer state, indeed by this time it had 636,000 square miles of Territory, the effective army was just 30,000, to defend it, and the Navy had only three streamers ‘Persepolis’ 600 tons with one 8.5 mm and three 7.5 mm steel Krupp guns which remained stationed on the Gulf coast, other was ‘Sussa’ 36 Tons stationed on River Karun, and lastly was a yatch’ presented by The Czar of Russia , 120 Tons and remained stationed on the port of Resht, Caspian Sea.
[to be continued…]