chapter  14
11 Pages

Confrontation in the Pamirs

Although the Indian government’s efforts to have its northern frontier settled had been frustrated, the government in London raised no objections to its continuing to send expeditions to the Pamirs and the upper reaches of the Amu Darya. The expectation was that sooner or later a settlement would have to be reached, and the experience of the Boundary Commission to the west had demonstrated the importance of prior investigation and survey. There were also continuing reports and rumours of Russian parties in the region, and it seemed desirable not to allow them a free hand. In 1881 and 1882, the explorers Dr Regel and Kossiakov had appeared in Darwaz and Shignan, and in 1883, what was known as the Great Pamirs Expedition under Captain Patiata had surveyed large tracts of the Pamirs, and had been followed in 1884-85 by an expedition under GrummGrzhimailo.1 In 1885, in deference to Abdur Rahman’s changed attitude, the Boundary Commission abandoned plans to proceed to the upper river and returned to India through Kabul. Dufferin, however, who favoured a proactive policy, had already launched two initiatives designed to assess the situation in Badakhshan and the Pamirs, to the east of the point where the Boundary Commission had finished its work. Their aim would be to survey the passes over the Pamirs and the Hindu Kush, and to determine the nature and extent of Afghan and Chinese rule. A political officer, Ney Elias, was sent to Yarkand and the Pamirs,2 and an expedition under Colonel Lockhart to explore further the passes through the Hindu Kush.3