Parti Peace Conf. 180.03401/18


Stenographic Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Saturday, May 17, 1919, at 4:30 P.M.

  • Present
    • The United States of America
      • President Wilson
    • France
      • Mr. Clemenceau
    • The British Empire
      • Mr. Lloyd George
    • Italy
      • Mr. Orlando
    • Indian Delegation
      • The Rt. Hon. E. S. Montagu, M. P.,
      • Secretary of State for India;
      • H. H., the Maharajah of Bikanir;
      • The Rt. Hon. Lord Sinha;
      • H. H., the Aga Khan;
      • Mr. Aftab Ahmad;
      • Mr. Yusuf Ali,
        Indian Civil Service (retired)
    • Secretaries
      • Sir Maurice Hankey;
      • Count Aldrovandi.
      • Interpreter—M. Mantoux.
      • Stenographer—C. L. Swem.

Hon. E. S. Montagu: Mr. President and Gentlemen, I think I can first express our heartfelt thanks for this opportunity of stating our case, because we feel deeply that you gentlemen, who are pursuing the peace of the world in this room, are likely to endanger for a long time to come the peace of the world in the East unless you realize the strength of Mohammedan feeling against the sort of peace that we hear rumored as a result of the war with Turkey. The Government of India feel this particularly strongly; but I would propose today, with your permission, that you should hear the case from my Indian colleagues. The case is always the more forceful when presented by the inhabitants of the country itself, than by one who is privileged to represent them. I am accompanied here this afternoon by my two colleagues on the Imperial British Indian Delegation who are both Hindus. Their object in coming here this afternoon is to demonstrate by the words which they will address to you subsequently the depth and reality with which Hindu Indians sympathize with [Page 691] the case of Mohammedan Indians. I would ask you first to hear His Highness, The Aga Khan.

H. H., The Aga Khan: Mr. President and Gentlemen: As you are aware, there are seventy million Mohammedans in India; and if you include the countries that border India and are in relations with India intimately, there are seventy-five million. I am quite sure that in this particular subject of Turkey and the sort of peace that is concluded in the Mohammedan states, which unfortunately were led into the war by German machinations, they are deeply interested; and in this particu-ar subject I think I am right in saying that we have the full sympathy of our Indian fellow-citizens who are not Mohammedans but who are Hindus, of which class both of my friends here are members. As you are aware, the fall of Turkey was a great deal due to our efforts from India. The larger number of troops sent against Turkey were Indian troops. It was Indian blood and Indian treasure, Mohammedan blood and Mohammedan treasure, which was shed and used to bring about that great result, and while that war went on, we were convinced, and we are still convinced, in spite of rumors to the contrary, that this war was a real crusade for modern principles of justice and fair play towards all men, and that behind the hatred and death of this war, lay the principle that you were preaching. That was the principle behind it. Now, we maintain that this principle of nationality is a sacred one and does not apply to one country and not to another,—to big countries and not to small ones.

For these reasons we pray that where the Turkish race has its home, where it has been for centuries and centuries, such as Asia Minor, Thrace, the town of Constantinople and Asia Minor proper, which is the home of the Turkish-speaking race,—we pray that that country should remain Turkish. We appeal to the principle of nationality. We appeal to your speeches. We appeal to the interests, the vital interests, of France and Italy in the development of their future commerce and industry in those countries, that the final break with these Mohammedan nations should not take place. We appeal to No. Twelve of, your Fourteen Points,1 Mr. President, and to the speeches that you have made, sir. We beg of you to bear in mind the principles for which we have fought, like all of you, and to apply them without fear or favor wherever they can be applied, and we believe that they can be applied, if you will put into this, our case, a judicial mind.

I will not go into other points which I am leaving for my friends here, but there are one or two points which I desire to mention. Germany will be invited sometime into the League of Nations. The German races, wherever there have been no mandates appointed for the Germans, have been promised that they will enter the League of [Page 692] Nations in the fullness of time. Now, the same ought to be promised to the Turkish races in the same condition. It does not matter whether Turkey is small or great, but if they are a nation, if they are one language, you mustn’t punish the future generations still unborn for the sins of the people of this generation.

Another point which I bring before your notice is the Eastern provinces of Turkey, the Northeastern provinces of Turkey, and the Southwestern provinces of the Caucasus of Russia. They are Armenians, Mohammedans, Kurds, Turks—they are so to speak the real Macedonia of the Eastern races. The frontier between Turkey and Russia even before 1877 was a purely political frontier. It was not an ethnological or geographical frontier south of the Caucasus. We appeal to you, sir, that whatever the form of government which is to be established for what is called Armenia, it should at least apply to the whole of those areas, and that it should be equality for all races, all religions and all peoples within those confines. There have been undoubtedly in the past in these countries terrible bloodshed and fighting and so on, but let us at least see that those things do not happen to the Armenians or to the other people. I don’t care particularly to mention them, but nobody now tries to decimate or reduce the Mohammedan population there, and they should have the same equal rights, no fear and no favor, but fair play.

These are the two points which I respectfully bring before you, and I am sure that there are seventy millions of my compatriots who feel them as strongly as I do.

Rt. Hon. E. S. Montagu: May I just intervene to say that I presume ydu all realize that the Sultan of Turkey has a spiritual authority far exceeding his temporal possessions as Khalif of the Mussulmans, which makes his destiny and the fate of his people of peculiar and particular interest to the Mohammedans of the world, even though they are not connected with Turkey?

H. H. The Aga Khan: Especially in India. That relationship has been very intimate, and it has never been severed even during the war. While Mohammedan troops have been fighting against the Turks, they have been praying for the Sultan of Turkey as Khalif at the same time. They fought because they believed they were fighting for principles above that.

Nobody has proposed to punish the Germans, who are the main offenders of this war, by taking Berlin from them. The Austrian Germans are to have Vienna. Why should the Turks alone have their capital taken from them?

Rt. Hon. E. S. Montagu: Mr. Aftab Ahmad, who comes from the Indian frontier, and who is a lawyer now, was a member of the Council of India.

[Page 693]

Mr. Aftab Ahmad: Mr. President and Gentlemen, With your permission I shall observe that I feel the honor of being given this privilege of expressing my views on this momentous question,—the future of the Turkish Empire. I, as an Indian Mussulman, beg to say that the seventy millions of the Mussulmans of India occupy a special place in the great British Empire, which has played such a prominent part in bringing this war to a triumphant close. As citizens of the Empire the Indian Mussulmans have shed their blood and contributed their full share for the service and success of their Empire and the Allied cause. Not only in the other theatres of war, but even against Turkey herself, the Mussulmans of India fought for the principles of justice, freedom and self-determination—principles to which the great Allied Powers are definitely committed and to the benefit of which all races and creeds are equally entitled.

Having stood successfully the most severe test during a long period of trial and trouble, the Mussulmans of India are now naturally and, I think, rightly interested in the future settlement of the Turkish Empire, the only surviving Mohammedan power in the world and the seat and center of the dearly cherished Khalifat. But now it is said that the Turk is to be turned out of Constantinople, and that Asia Minor is to be cut up into pieces and distributed among France, Italy and Greece. We have also heard that Mesopotamia, Arabia, Syria and Palestine are to be placed under non-Moslem governments. As regards Constantinople, Thrace and Asia Minor, we would earnestly appeal to the principles proclaimed by the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of Great Britain as bearing upon their war aims in general, and on this part of the Turkish Empire in particular.

His Highness has already referred to Point No. 12 of your Fourteen Points, and especially to the important speech delivered by our Prime Minister in January [19]182, and with your permission I should just like to read a few words from your Point No. 12, that

“The Turkish portions of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.”

And on the same point the Prime Minister was pleased to say in explaining and defining the principles for which Great Britain was fighting in this war,

“Nor are we fighting to deprive Turkey of its capital or of the rich renowned lands of Asia Minor and Thrace, which are predominately Turkish in race.”

[Page 694]

I may be permitted to observe that these words have gone down deep into the hearts of millions of Mohammedans all over the world and nothing can eradicate them. They have put perfect faith and belief in these words, and they are anxiously waiting for the realization of the things which these words promise.

It is clear from what the Peace Conference has so far decided that the future of the enemy territories is settled upon the principle of nationality. We beg and pray that the same principle may be applied to the case of Turkey. It is needless to point out that these parts of the Turkish Empire are predominately Turkish in race, and it is not only the question of the sovereignty of the Sultan and the Khalifat, but the fate of the whole Turkish race, inhabiting these parts, is involved in your decision. Any such dismemberment of Turkey and subjugation of the Turkish race to foreign domination will be most strongly resented by the Moslems of India and will be regarded by them as due to the fact that Turkey is a Mohammedan power. This is sure to leave a sense of most bitter feeling in India and other parts of the Moslem world. There is no valid reason why Germany, Austria, and Bulgaria should be allowed to keep their capitals and Turkey should be deprived of sovereignty over Constantinople. We earnestly appeal that the Sultan should not only be allowed to possess complete sovereignty, but that in due course Turkey should be admitted to the League of Nations.

As regards Mesopotomia, Arabia, Syria and Palestine, our prayer is that they should continue to be under a Mohammedan government. The Mussulmans in India and other parts of the world are most anxiously watching the settlement with a view to see how far the principles of justice and self-determination are given effect to in the case of these territories. In this connection the essential points which we would earnestly urge before this august body are:

Establishment of Mohammedan government, not only in name but in fact, based on the principle of self-determination.
Definite and effective provision for their unhampered economic development, protecting their natural resources against foreign exploitation.
Definite and effective provision for the spread and extension of modern education of all grades and kinds to secure moral and intellectual advancement of the people.

And, lastly, adequate representation of representative Mohammedans upon any body or institution which the League of Nations should set up for periodical inspection of territories under its mandate, so that in due course these territories may also be admitted to the League.

Such are the tests which Mussulmans will naturally apply to any settlement which the Peace Conference may be pleased to determine [Page 695] with regard to the Turkish Empire. We earnestly appeal that these essential points will be kept in view.

I may, in conclusion, be permitted to observe that upon the issue of your deliberations with regard to the future fate of Turkey depend, to a large extent, not only the future relations between the Indian Mussulmans and the Empire, but the situation in the whole Islamic world. We are most anxious to avoid the causes of that general unrest which is discernible in so many parts of the world at the present time and which may have most disastrous results.

Rt. Hon. E. S. Montagu: Mr. Yusuf Ali was a member of the Indian Civil Service and was a member of the Government of India; and is now resident in London.

Mr. Yusuf Ali: Mr. President and Gentlemen: My colleagues who have spoken before you have already placed our case before you from various points of view. There is one point of view, however, in which I think you might be interested and on which I propose to concentrate my attention. I have been a very close student of the vernacular papers in India, and especially the Mohammedan vernacular papers, and I have been struck with the fact that the chief interests of the editors, and therefore presumably of their readers, have been concerned mainly during this war with the doings and the future of the Mohammedan powers concerned. It is well known how much strain was put upon the loyalty of the Indian Mohammedans when Turkey went into the war against us, but I claim, and I venture to think that that claim is justified, that the Indian Mohammedans stood that test steadfastly and loyally; and I think that they are entitled to have a voice in the settlement of the Mohammedan countries that is now before you.

It may be asked, What is their interest? I will not at the present moment go into questions of ethnology and point out that amongst the various strains which compose the body of Indian Mohammedans there is a good deal of Turkish Blood and Turkish tradition. The word “Urdu” which is the name of the national language of the Indian Mohammedans, called in Europe “Hindustani,” is itself derived from a Turkish word meaning “camp,”—showing the origin of that language, how it arose in the camps of the Turks and Tartars, who were a great power in the time of the Mogul Empire in India. To you, sir, it is superfluous for me to refer to the visit, the historical visit of Captain Hawkins in the reign of Jahangir, and how he mentions the language in which he talked to the Mogul court was Turkish. I do not wish to lay any particular emphasis upon this, but it will at least show you that there are Turkish affinities and that the Indian Mohammedans in feeling an interest in the Turks and in their empire are feeling an interest which is quite close to them.

[Page 696]

But apart from that we have the Arabian strain and the Persian strain, and the Central Asian strain, and the Hindu strain amongst the Indian Mohammedans, but whatever the origin, we all feel that we have an interest in our brother Mussulmen. The tie of religion with us is, it seems to me, rather stronger than the tie of religion amongst many of the followers of any of the other great historical religions. In fact, religion seems to take almost the place of blood or nation, and you can understand and appreciate the position as regards the Indian Mohammedans feeling an interest in Turkey.

And then they also feel that the last Mohammedan power, as my friend Mr. Aftab Ahmad has put it, the last remaining Mohammedan power if it vanishes will leave behind very large issues for which we venture to submit the world is not at present prepared. Here again it will be presumptuous for me to refer to the intricate political, economic and international questions which would justify us in making that statement. You gentlemen can deal with that much better than I can, but it is necessary to advert to the fact that this difficulty is present in our minds, and we base some of the arguments for favorable treatment of Turkey upon these very practical considerations.

Then there is the question of the declarations and pledges. Here 1 should like to say that we must take these declarations and pledges as they were understood by the Indian Mohammedans, as they would have been justified in understanding them, and I think I am right in saying that they universally expected that whatever settlement was arrived at after the war, it would not forever banish the hope of setting the Turkish and other peoples comprised in the Turkish Empire on their legs again.

Then there is the great question of the Khalifat. The Khalifat is a question on which perhaps it is difficult to speak briefly, but nevertheless, with your permission, I shall offer just a few remarks upon its practical aspect. I do not wish to go into history. I do not wish to go into theology. But I do wish to point out that the spiritual influence of the Khalifat, which is acknowledged in India by British subjects and by other subjects in other parts of the world, is intimately bound up with the prospects of educational and moral advancement amongst all the Moslem people, and if we handle that question in a manner that is prejudicial to the hopes and aspiration of the Moslem people, or if we cut off the whole of the old historical tradition, it is possible, indeed it is probable, that we shall make the advancement of the Moslem people more and more difficult.

Mr. Lloyd-George: Is it hereditary?

Mr. Yxtsuf Ali: It is in theory elective, but in practice it has been hereditary. In India some of the papers recently raised the question of the spiritual organization of the Indian Mohammedans, and various suggestions and proposals were put forward, but I could not help [Page 697] noticing that they all related themselves to the historical growth of the spiritual head of Islam; and if we cut that off, I think that we shall find that the Indian Mohammedans will be placed at a great disadvantage,—you may say owing to their own ideas,—but they will in fact be placed at a great disadvantage in the race for future progress. We have at the present moment great and promising schemes for the self-development of India, politically, industrially and in other ways, and we wish and hope that the Mohammedans should take their rightful share in that self-development, but we feel that if extraneous causes,—prejudices, if you like so to call them,—in any way cut them off from taking their proper share as citizens of the British Indian Empire and of the British Empire, it would be a great calamity, not only to our own people, not only to the Indian Empire, but to the world at large.

It seems to us that sometimes Europe is apt to forget Islam, to forget the power that is behind it, to forget the force that it wields; and, at any rate, it is our duty clearly to point out that that power still exists, and if it is forgotten or neglected, it will only mean further complications in the future. We should like, therefore, that full consideration be given to the feelings and sentiments of the Indian Mohammedans on the question of the retention by the Turks of Constantinople and Thrace and Asia Minor, where they have substantially a Turkish population, and that the interests of the Mohammedans in all the other provinces should be so safeguarded that they have a reasonable hope of making further and further progress and entering into that committee of nations which is typified by admission when the time comes to the League of Nations.

H. H. The Maharajah of Bikanir: I should like, as a Hindu Indian, and as the ruler of one of the independent states of India under the King’s protection, to observe that the princes and the people, even though they are non-Moslems, will be found in general sympathy with the aspiration of their brother Moslems in India. And as one who has the honor of representing the Indian Princes at this Conference, I should like to point out that the premier prince in India happens to be a Mohammedan ruler who has influenced for the good not only the activities of his own state, but Moslem opinion throughout India, in favor, of course, of the King Emperor and also of the Allies. I should like to plead also very strongly for the retention of the Sultan in Constantinople, and to strongly deprecate any partition of Turkey proper.

I need not repeat two points which I had put down, but which have been brought out by His Highness, the Aga Khan,—points concerning the tremendous loyalty of the Indian Mohammedans who formed a very considerable portion of the Indian Army, whose loyalty was taxed to the utmost. I can testify from having been with them in the [Page 698] field, both in France, where thousands of Indian Moslems lie now, and in Egypt. In Mesopotamia, in East Africa, West Africa, the Shantung Province, and in every theatre of war, the Mohammedans have fought, and the point which His Highness brought out is a point which must appeal to all, that though they recognized the Khalif as their spiritual ruler, yet they fought against him: before and after fighting, every day, in the mornings and evenings, they were offering prayers for the Khalif, while still fighting for the King and the Allies in the cause of civilization.

The recent unrest in India is undoubtedly a reflex to a very great extent Of the tremendous feeling of the Mohammedans and their apprehensions in regard to the future of Turkey, about which all sorts of rumors are current, and I would beg with a full sense of responsibility to say that if the Sultan and the Turks are deprived of Constantinople and there is a partition of Turkey, there will be grave unrest, hatred and trouble in the future, not only for India, not only for the British Empire, but for the world at large.

Rt. Hon. Lord Sinha: Gentlemen, I do not think it necessary for me to occupy any of your time after the matter has been so fully dealt with by my colleague, The Maharajah of Bikanir, as well as by the three Mohammedan gentlemen who have had the privilege of addressing you. I can only remind you once again of the fact that there are seventy millions of Mohammedans in India, which comprise, therefore, more than one-fifth of the population of the country. These Mohammedans comprise amongst them some of the most war-like races in India, and furnish a very large proportion of the Indian Army, of that Army with which the victory over Turkey has been so successfully obtained. I am confident from what I have read and seen as regards the feelings of my Mohammedan fellow-citizens in India, and I am confirmed in that feeling by the discussions I have had both yesterday and today with the three gentlemen who have addressed you just now, that there is grave anxiety in India amongst the Mohammedans with regard to the rumored dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. The Indian Mohammedan will not understand why, when the German is left in Berlin and the Austrian in Vienna, the Turk should be expelled from Constantinople. He will be apt, and I am afraid he will have reasonable justification for it,—he will be inclined to consider that after all he has fought against his religion and that, notwithstanding the professions of the various eminent statesmen who have declared the war aims and objects with regard to this war which has just terminated, that notwithstanding these declarations after all it has been, like in old times, the war of one religion against another. And what is more, and what is of great consequence to us in India, the Indian Mohammedan will have the belief that he has been made to fight by [Page 699] false promises, made to fight against the spiritual head of his religion and made to fight, therefore, against his own religion himself, which to him is a far more living faith than, I am sorry to say, it is with regard to many others. That is the danger which is such a menace to the British Empire, and therefore I submit it to the world at large, and I do not hesitate for one moment to ask you to give it your full and grave consideration. We in India are likely to be sufferers in the first instance no doubt from this feeling amongst the Mohammedans, but it will not be confined to India. The peace of the world will be gravely imperilled, and I therefore join my voice with that of my fellow-subjects in earnestly proclaiming that the Turks should not be dealt with more severely or less justly than the other enemies in this war.

Rt. Hon. E. S. Montagu: I should like to give you some information which you may not have heard of the reality of the danger to the peace of the world which is thereby involved. It is only three days ago that I saw a representative of your Government, Mr. President, who has been in captivity with the Bolshevists in Turkestan.3 He has come home after a most perilous journey, involving six sentences of death, and he tells me that all the way he traveled through that vast Mohammedan country he was struck by the various alterations in the tone of the Mussulman towards the Entente since the Armistice. They have heard these rumors of the dismemberment of Turkey, and he was struck by the anti-Entente feeling.

I don’t know whether you have heard of the very serious trouble that we have had in the Punjab in India, where certain Hindu sedition-ists, largely influenced I believe by outside influences, largely influenced, I believe, by Bolshevik influences, were stirring up the people to resist the laws of the land. The Mosques were thrown open to them, and the non-Mussulman, the non-believer, the Hindu, was invited into the Mohammedan pulpit to preach opposition to the laws of the Indian Government, a thing which never happened before in the history of the world, I should imagine, and it would have been regarded by the old-fashioned Mohammedan as a desecration of their Mosques. Now, this is due, not to one item, but to a whole series of items. The talk about Constantinople began it; the rumors of the landing of Italian and Greek soldiers in Asia Minor, the suggestions that the Mosque of San Sofia should be rededicated as a Christian Church,—all these things have brought into these people’s minds the belief that despite what was said to them during the war, this war has turned out to be a war of non-Mohammedans against Mohammedans, a war of non-Moslem faiths against the Moslem faith; and the feeling which has been shown by my colleagues today merely makes me implore you [Page 700] to remember that that feeling, if it is not corrected by the terms of peace, may endanger the peace of the world throughout the East, and may add to the already dangerous elements in Russia.

Mr. Lloyd-George: Surely, Mr. Secretary of State, the Mohammedans of India must know that most of the fighting has been done amongst the Christians.

Rt. Hon. E. S. Montagu: The fighting has been done amongst the Christians, but the peace terms dictated to our Christian enemies will strike them as so much more moderate than the peace terms which lead to the complete disappearance of our only Mussulman state. And did you see that the Turkish newspapers have published a statement that they thought the terms of peace to Germany very fair?

The President: I want to speak of one thing that has been mentioned, though it has not been dwelt upon, in order to avoid any possible misunderstanding. That is the suggestion that entrance into the League of Nations should be left open as freely to Mussulman Governments as to other. There is really no difficulty upon that point; but I want to call your attention to the fact that the covenant of the League limits membership to self-governing nations, and that Germany is not admitted at once because we are not sure that she is a self-governing nation. It was the opinion among all the conferees on this subject that we must wait until we had conclusive proof that Germany was no longer under the government of a single individual or a small group of individuals, but under the government of her own people, and that therefore her disposition to the rest of the world and her ambitions were altogether altered before she could be admitted into the League. I for my part do not anticipate any opposition to the admission of any government that displays those changes. So that it is not a question of present political relationship.

Mr. Lloyd-George: There will certainly be no religious question.

The President: Certainly not. It is merely a question of political form of government.

There is another matter that I would like to make clear in that connection: The whole theory of mandates is not the theory of permanent subordination. It is the theory of development, of putting upon the mandatory the duty of assisting in the development of the country under mandate, in order that it may be brought to a capacity for self-government and self-dependence which for the time being it has not reached, and that therefore the countries under mandate are candidates, so to say, for full membership in the family of nations. I think that is a very important fundamental idea of the whole mandatory conception.

H. H. The Aga Khan (or Lord Sinha): In these Mohammedan countries democracy is really part of their religion in a way. It is a [Page 701] historical fact that in Islam it was common for centuries, while in the Middle Ages it did not exist in many other countries, and those self-governing and democratic principles should be applied to these Mohammedans. They should be allowed to enter the League of Nations, and nothing should be done to prevent their remaining self-governing nations, just as Germany will enter when she changes her spirit.

Mr. Yusot Ali: We are afraid, sir, that if the arrangements are as rumored, that will delay the process of their becoming self-governing, or will destroy their hopes altogether.

The President: Of course, I think we all recognize that the trouble in Asia Minor has been the rivalry and clash of nationalities and religions, and that the problem is complex because the mixture is so complex and the competition so sharp.

  1. Foreign Relations, 1918, supp. 1, vol. i, pp. 1516.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1918, supp. 1, vol i, p. 4.
  3. The reference is to Roger C. Tredwell, American Consul at Tashkent. Concerning his detention by Soviet authorities and negotiations for his release, see Foreign Relations, 1919, Russia, pp. 167184 passim.