(Last Updated on : 21/04/2012)
The need for suitable land frontiers had always been a keen subject for the British, colonized in India. To hold the administrative as well as the political control of India, the British viceroys from the very beginning tried to strengthen the land frontiers. Hence all of them maintained a regular foreign policy in order to build up a strong frontier. Lord Curzon being a shrewd diplomat gave to the problems of frontier a scientific basis and developed a strong British Empire in India.
Britain`s special interest in the Persian Gulf began long before in the 17th century when Britain conquered some important stations of the area and the adjoining regions. British established their colony in those regions. The British Residents in the Gulf acted as the arbitrary dictators and always with strife with the chiefs of the Arabian coasts. Later the British navy suppressed the revolt of the Arabian chiefs and established peace. Though initially Britain did not aim for any colonial empire in the Gulf, she would not tolerate the territorial interest of any other power in the Persian Gulf. In the last quarter of the 19th century the European powers were competing in the race of establishing colonies. Right at that moment Russia was trying to move southward to establish a port in the Persian Gulf. Germany was planning to extend her Berlin Baghdad railway project to the gulf. Moreover Turkey was trying to re-install her suzerainty over Kuwait. In due course France expressed its resentment against the increasing claims of England over Persian Gulf and tried to put an end to it. But England thwarted the attempts of Russia, Germany and Turkey to gain a favorable position in the Gulf. After visiting to the Persian Gulf, in 1903 Curzon declared that to let Russia to establish a port in this region was to damage the status quo of great Britain. Curzon also thwarted the Russian intrigues in the Perso-Afghan dispute about Seistan. According to the old treaty of 1857, both Persia and Afghanistan had agreed to settle their differences through the good offices of the British government. Hence on the strength of that treaty, Curzon dispatched in 1902 Sir Henry MacMahon to arbitrate in the satisfaction of both the parties. Thus Curzon subdued the growth of any power that could challenge the British supremacy in Persian Gulf.
Trade relation with the neighboring countries was also considered as one of the important foreign policy of the British. In 1774-75, Warren Hastings has sent George Bogle as the company`s envoy into Tibet to develop trade relation with the country. A second envoy was also sent in the year of 1783 for the same purpose. However the trade relation with Tibet was completely damaged after the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The Tibetan-Sikkim disputes worsened the condition. A Sino- British convention of 1890 demarcated the boundaries. The Sino-British agreement also considered the questions pertaining to the trade between India and Tibet, which took shape of the definite agreement in 1893. However nothing substantial was resulted from this Agreement. Thus when Curzon arrived in India, the relations with Tibet had reached to a point of complete deadlock. The Chinese suzerainty over Tibet was ineffective. Moreover Russian interference was increasing which alarmed Curzon. Hence he could not remain indifferent to the Russian advances in Tibet.
In such circumstances Curzon in 1903,with the permissions of the Home Authorities sent colonel Younghusband with a small Gorkha contingent on a special mission to Tibet. The motto of the mission was to somehow oblige the Tibetans to come to an agreement with the British. However the Tibetans refused to negotiate and offered non-violent resistance. Younghusband pushed his way reaching Gyantse on April 11 and Lhasa on 3rd August 1904. Consequently Tibet came into the complete control of the British. Thus Curzon strengthened their position in the northeast frontier. Later in the clause provided it was declared that Tibet would not grant any concession for railways, roads, telegraphs etc to any foreign state. However according to that very clause Great Britain was entitled to have some control over the foreign affairs of Tibet. It can be said that the vigorous and determined foreign policy of Curzon counteracted all Russian schemes in Tibet.
In his policy towards the north west frontier Curzon followed a realistic policy quite diplomatically. Curzon drafted a code of frontier policy and applied it with consistency and without violent interruptions throughout the whole region of northwestern frontier. Accordingly Curzon followed the policy of withdrawing the British force from the frontier. He then appointed the tribal forces in defence of the tribal territory. Regular British troops were withdrawn from advanced position in the Tribal areas. Moreover the tribal militia who were entrusted for the defence of the frontiers were trained and commanded by British officers. As support to these tribal levies, mobile columns of British troops were stationed in various strategic positions. Communications in these rears were highly developed to support the new policy. Also a number of strategic railway lines were laid down to build up the proper communication. Besides, a durbar was held at Peshwar in 1902, where nearly all the tribal chiefs attended. In the Durbar Curzon assured the chiefs of the peaceful and non-aggressive British policy but at the same time warned them of the consequences of violating the frontier. Curzon crowned his policy by the creation of a new northwest frontier province consisting of the districts of Hazara, Peshwar, Kohat, Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan and the trans-border tracts lying between the administrative frontiers of the Durand Line. Curzon claimed all successes for his frontier policy. However the northwest frontier policy of Curzon did not bring any long-term peace successfully.
In viceroy`s executive Council here used to be two members representing the Military department. The first one was the commandeer in chief, the executive head of the army in India and the and the second was a military member, an ordinary executive to advise the governor general on the military matters. Lord Kitchener, who came to India in1904, to hold the office of Commander in chief did not like the dual control over the Military department. In short he sought to abolish the office of military executive in the viceroy`s council. Curzon however strongly opposed the proposal-approached by Lord Kitchener. Later with the passage of time situation got worse and there was increasing differences between Lord Curzon and Home over the matters of the foreign policy of Curzon. Ultimately the circumstances led to the resignation of Lord Curzon from the office of viceroy.
Lord Curzon was a great imperialist. Curzon`s foreign and the domestic policies were guided by his dream to establish a strong British empire in India. He tried to keep India as a close preserve for Britain and save her from the onslaught of the other European aggression.