India in World Affairs, 1858-1914
Some factors affecting India's geopolitical position and the course of events up to 1857 have already been noted. A point for observation about India's position in the mid-nineteenth century was its insulation from world events and opinion. At this time India was (apart from the British) almost as isolated from the rest of the world as the Middle West of America. The Hindu princes and people had long been looking inward; they had, except in a restricted commercial sense, lost touch with their cultural children in the East Indies and still more with the offspring of Buddhism in China and Japan. Only the new Hindus looked to the West through British spectacles. The Muslims, through their Mughal rulers, had once been in close touch with developments in the Islamic world and affairs in central Asia. Most of this contact was now lost, except for some contacts in the northwest with the Afghans and the Persians. Even the cultural tie with Persia was wearing thin. The Islamic world itself, both in its original seat in Arabia and in its later political manifestations in Persia and Turkey, seemed to be in decay. The old Muslims could only see an eclipse of glory, a creeping paralysis of ruin, in their homelands; of new Muslims to match the new Hindus there were as yet hardly any.
In 1858 India's position in relation to the Iranian Plateau was still undefined. The attempt to dominate the Afghan portion of it had failed with the first Afghan war. Afghanistan remained firmly in the hands of Dost Muhammad Khan, but he showed no signs of emulating the conquerors of the past and restoring a reintegrated Persian empire. If the Iranian situation remained equivocal, the situation in the central Asian "reservoir" remained equally so. There was as yet no horde, nomad or modernized, to spill over into the plateau. The Turkish khanates were in decay. Whether on account of one of the periods of dessication in central Asia which inhibited growth of population or for lack of modern