Waziristan To Tibet
The Chronicles of Colonel H. R. Brander C.B., 32nd Sikh Pioneers 1882-1910.
by Cyril Lucas
Colonel Brander’s service in and eventual command of the 32nd Sikh Pioneers put him in personal contact with the problems of India’s frontiers a century ago and reveal how little has changed other than the scale of weaponry and cost of conflict in a savage landscape and barbarous region. America’s ten year War in Afghanistan has seemed interminable to her people. To her Taliban opponents it has been a short phase in their Holy Jihad which has continued for hundreds of years since the birth of the Wahhabi cult, and for Waziri tribesmen violence has seemed the natural state of society ever since the invasion of Alexander the Great. “Waziristan to Tibet” tells the story of Colonel Brander’s experiences in the 32nd Sikh Pioneers, using his history of the Regiment, his personal recollections of its campaigns 1882-1910, and other contemporary sources. Its background covers the relationship of Britain and Afghanistan from a troubled beginning with accounts of the disasters and successes of the 1st and 2nd Afghan Wars, the perennial political problems along India’s’ tribal frontiers, the role of the Wahhabi sect which developed into the Taliban as it is today, the ‘Great Game’ of political strategy played out between Britain and Russia, and the British Invasion of Tibet 1903/04 which was motivated by fears of the Tsar’s conquests in central Asia and his expansionist intentions towards the jewel of the British Empire, only to be marred by political indecision and incompetent military leadership. The feats of personal endurance demanded by service in the ‘Indian Army’ of Colonel Brander’s day may seem to surpass fiction but they are recorded by history as fact. His colorful personal story portrays vanished days of the Raj at its apogee, as well as the unchanging dynamics underlying today’s conflict in Afghanistan and the dire consequences of Tibet’s attempt to preserve its treasured mediaeval isolation in a changing world.
- Booktango, August 2012
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