Borders and boundaries have often been at the heart of uncompromising disputes when looking back at history and the unresolved issues surrounding these disputes have served to be the cause of further disagreement and hostility for the concerned countries. These are often the result of egotistical adventurous foreign policies of the super powers of the day, imposed upon unsuspecting fragile nations “European colonialism had left behind a legacy of border disputes and unsolved territorial questions. The national boundaries of these countries had been drawn up by the colonial powers to suit their own needs.” (Anwar, 1989, p.34). Kashmir continues to be at the heart of the dispute between India and Pakistan, Aksai Chin between China and India, and the Macmahon and Durand Line are classic examples of an imperialistic venture, the problems of which have been left to the countries they once controlled, to deal with. The approximately 1,500 mile border of the Durand Line was demarcated on November 12 1893, cutting through tribal lands that lay between Afghanistan and India. It was named after the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Mortimer Durand, who led the mission into Afghanistan with the plans to mark out the North-Western frontier of British India. Great Britain had established significant control over India in the 18th Century. Their presence in the region prompted Czarist Russia to also have a dab at expanding her empire. Thus Afghanistan had become a major playing field in the ‘Great Game’ between Russia and the British. Russia’s ambitious advances into Central Asia during early 19th Century put Britain on high alert for the safety of its ‘Crown Jewels.’ Afghanistan’s geo-political location in between these two growing empires meant it was dragged into the struggle for power, the effects of which are still visible today. It is safe to say that Afghanistan and Pakistan have had a turbulent relationship since the creation of the latter’s state in 1947. Afghanistan’s refusal to accept the British imposed Durand Line as the ‘de facto’ border with her neighbour Pakistan has fuelled a conflict and has been at the core of the constant strained relations between the two countries. Afghanistan’s refusal to acknowledge this border is met with Pakistan’s insistence that the Durand line is the official border between the two countries. The international community, more or less, accepts the Durand Line as the international frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is surprising to note that although the Durand Line persists to be the root cause of the intrinsically hostile relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as an established stumbling block on the road to a settlement, the existence, let alone the importance of implications of the line is not familiar to the ordinary news reader. With the break-up of British India, came the question of who would take over the North-Western Frontier Province (NWFP) of the empire. Afghanistan resented the fact that the tribal groups in the area were not given the right to choose, during the partition of Pakistan from India, to join with Afghanistan or at least remain independent from both. This created a bitter early relationship. Relations between the two became particularly difficult during the early part of the 1960’s with border closures but the rigidity of the Durand Line was non existent when Afghanistan came under Soviet attack in 1979, creating masses of Afghan refugees penetrating the porous border into Pakistan. Pakistan, with the help of America, heavily supported the Afghan resistance who were to be known as the Mujahideen freedom fighters in the hope of giving rise to a government with a more conciliatory attitude towards the Durand dispute. The withdrawal of the Soviet Union eventually paved the way for the emergence of the Taliban in 1994. Initial support of the Taliban regime would come back to haunt Pakistan as the attack on the World Trade Centre prompted the US and her allies to embark upon the Global War On Terror (GWOT). The arrival of the coalition in Afghanistan has resurfaced the hostile attitudes of the two towards each other. In an increasingly globalised world, the Durand Line has never been more in need of a permanent solution as the instability of the region directly affects global security. “This line created and perpetuates a region of permanent instability encompassing eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan” (Maitra, Asia Times).
- A Study of the Durand Line
- Chapter 1: The Birth of a Troubled Frontier
- Chapter 2: A Turbulent Relationship: Afghanistan and Pakistan
- Chapter 3: The Durand Debate
- Chapter 4: Possible Solutions