and the Salween, rise the dual sources of the Irrawaddy. From the water-divide which separates the most eastern affluent of the Brahmaputra, eastwards to the deep gorges which enclose the most westerly branch of the upper Yang-tsze-kiang (here running from north to south), is a short space of 100 m.; and within that space two mighty rivers, the Salween and the Mekong, send down their torrents to Burma and Siam. These three rivers flow parallel to each other for some 300 m., deep hidden in narrow and precipitous troughs, amidst some of the grandest scenery of Asia; spreading apart where the Yank-tsze takes its course eastwards, not far north of the parallel of 25°.
The comparatively restricted area which still remains for close investigation includes the most easterly sources of the Brahmaputra, the most northerly sources of the Irrawaddy, and some 300 m. of the course of the upper Salween.
Modern Boundary Demarcation.—The period from about 1880 has been an era of boundary-making in Asia, of defining the politico-geographical limits of empire, and of determining the responsibilities of government. Russia, Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, India and China have all revised their borders, and with the revision the political relations between these countries have acquired a new and more assured basis. See also the articles on the different countries. We are not here concerned with understandings as to “spheres of influence,” or with arrangements such as the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 concerning Persia.
The advance of Russia to the Turkoman deserts and the Oxus demanded a definite boundary between her trans-Caspian conquests and the kingdom of Afghanistan. This was determined on the north-west by the Russo-Afghan Boundary Commission Southern boundary of Russia in Asia. of 1884-1886. A boundary was then fixed between the Hari Rud (the river of Herat) and the Oxus, which is almost entirely artificial in its construction. Zulfikar, where the boundary leaves the Hari Rud, is about 70 m. south of Sarakhs, and the most southerly point of the boundary (where it crosses the Kushk) is about 60 m. north of Herat. From the junction of the boundary with the Oxus at Khamiab about 150 m. above the crossing-point of the Russian Trans-Caspian railway at Charjui, the main channel of the Oxus river becomes the northern boundary of Afghanistan, separating that country from Russia, and so continues to its source in Victoria Lake of the Great Pamir. Beyond this point the Anglo-Russian Commission of 1895 demarcated a line to the snowfields and glaciers which overlook the Chinese border. Between the Russian Pamirs and Chinese Turkestan the rugged line of the Sarikol range intervenes, the actual dividing line being still indefinite. Beyond Kashgar the southern boundary of Siberia follows an irregular course to the north-east, partly defined by the Tian-shan and Alatau mountains, till it attains a northerly point in about 53° N. lat. marked by the Sayan range to the west of Irkutsk. It then deflects south-east till it touches the Kerulen affluent of the Amur river at a point which is shown in unofficial maps as about 117° 30′ E. long, and 49° 20′ N. lat. From here it follows this affluent to its junction with the Amur river, and the Amur river to its junction with the Usuri. It follows the Usuri to its head (its direction now being a little west of south), and finally strikes the Pacific coast on about 42° 30′ N. lat. at the mouth of the Tumen river 100 m. south of the Amur bay, at the head of which lies the Russian port of Vladivostok. At two points the Russian boundary nearly approaches that of provinces which are directly under British suzerainty. Where the Oxus river takes its great bend to the north from Ishkashim, the breadth of the Afghan territory intervening between that river and the main water-divide of the Hindu Kush is not more than 10 or 12 m.; and east of the Pamir extension of Afghanistan, where the Beyik Pass crosses the Sarikol range and drops into the Taghdumbash Pamir, there is but the narrow width of the Karachukar valley between the Sarikol and the Muztagh. Here, however, the boundary is again undefined. Eastwards of this the great Kashgar depression, which includes the Tarim desert, separates Russia from the vast sterile highlands of Tibet; and a continuous series of desert spaces of low elevation, marking the limits of a primeval inland sea from the Sarikol meridional watershed to the Khingan mountains on the western borders of Manchuria, divide her from the northern provinces of China. From the Khingan ranges to the Pacific, south of the Amur, stretch the rich districts of Manchuria, a province which connects Russia with the Korea by a series of valleys formed by the Sungari and its affluents—a land of hill and plain, forest and swamp, possessing a delightful climate, and vast undeveloped agricultural resources. Throughout this land of promise Russian influence was destroyed by Japan in the war of 1904. The possession of Port Arthur, and direct political control over Korea, place Japan in the dominant position as regards Manchuria.
Coincident with the demarcation of Russian boundaries in Turkestan was that of northern Afghanistan. From the Hari Rud on the west to the Sarikol mountains on the east her northern limits were set by the Boundary Commissions of 1884-1886 Afghan political boundaries. and of 1895 respectively. Her southern and eastern boundaries were further defined by a series of minor commissions, working on the basis of the Kabul agreement of 1893, which lasted for nearly four years, terminating with the Mohmand settlement at the close of an expedition in 1897.
The Pamir extension of Afghan territory to the north-east reaches to a point a little short of 75° E., from whence it follows the water-divide to the head of the Taghdumbash Pamir, and is thenceforward defined by the water-parting of the Hindu Kush. It leaves the Hindu Kush near the Dorah Pass at the head of one of the minor Chitral affluents, and passing south-west divides Kafiristan from Chitral and Bajour, separates the sections of the Mohmands who are within the respective spheres of Afghan and British sovereignty, and crosses the Peshawar-Kabul route at Lundi-Khana. It thus places a broad width of independent territory between the boundaries of British India (which have remained practically, though not absolutely, untouched) and Afghanistan; and this independent belt includes Swat, Bajour and a part of the Mohmand territory north of the Kabul river. The same principle of maintaining an intervening width of neutral territory between the two countries is definitely established throughout the eastern borders of Afghanistan, along the full length of which a definite boundary has been demarcated to the point where it touches the northern limits of Baluchistan on the Gomal river. From the Gomal Baluchistan itself becomes an intervening state between British India and Afghanistan, and the dividing line between Baluchistan and Afghanistan is laid down with all the precision employed on the more northerly sections of the demarcation.
Baluchistan can no longer be regarded as a distinct entity amongst Asiatic nations, such as Afghanistan undoubtedly is. Baluchistan independence demands qualification. There is British Baluchistan par excellence, and there is the rest of Baluchistan which exists in various degrees of independence, but Baluchistan. is everywhere subject to British control. British Baluchistan officially includes the districts of Peshin, Sibi and of Thal-Chotiali. As these districts had originally been Afghan, they were transferred to British authority by the treaty of Gandamak in 1879, although nominally they had been handed over to Kalat forty years previously. Now they form an official province of British Baluchistan within the Baluchistan Agency; and the agency extends from the Gomal to the Arabian Sea and the Persian frontier. Within this agency there are districts as independent as any in Afghanistan, but the political status of the province as a whole is almost precisely that of the native states of the Indian peninsula. The agent to the governor-general of India, with a staff of political assistants, practically exercises supreme control.
The increase of Russian influence on the northern Persian border and its extension southwards towards Seistan led to the appointment of a British consul at Kirman, the dominating Kirman. town of southern Khorasan, directly connected with Meshed on the north; and the acquisition of rights of administration of the Nushki district secured to Great Britain the trade between Seistan and Quetta by the new Helmund desert route.
While British India has so far avoided actual geographical contact with one great European power in Asia on the north and west, she has touched another on the east. The Mekong river which limits British interests in Burma limits also those Boundary between French territory and India. of France in Tongking. The eastern boundaries of Burma are not yet fully demarcated on the Chinese frontier. At a point level in latitude with Mogaung, near the northern termination of the Burmese railway system, this boundary is defined by the eastern watershed of the Nmaikha, the eastern of the two great northern affluents of the Irrawaddy. Then it follows an irregular course southwards to a position south-east of Bhamo in lat. 24°. It next defines the northern edge of the Shan States, and finally strikes the Mekong river in lat. 21° 45′ (approximately). From that point southwards the river becomes the boundary between the Shan States and Tongking for some 200 m., the channel of the river defining the limits of occupation (though not entirely of interest) between French and British subjects. Approximately on the parallel of 20° N. lat. the Burmese boundary leaves the Mekong to run westwards towards the Salween, and thereafter following the eastern watershed of the Salween basin it divides the Lower Burma provinces from Siam.
The following table shows the areas of territories in Asia Area and political division. (continental and insular) dependent on the various extra-Asiatic powers, and of those which are independent or nominally so:—
|Other independent territories||2,232,270|
The total area of Asia, continental and insular, is therefore somewhat over 16,819,000 sq. m. (but various authorities differ considerably in their detailed estimates). The population may be set down roughly as 823,000,000, of which 330,000,000 inhabit Chinese territory, 302,000,000 British, and 25,000,000 Russian.