Pakistan, Afghanistan contend over Durand Line

Durand Line is the international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The boundary was established in the Hindu Kush in 1893 running through the tribal lands between Afghanistan and British India, marking their respective spheres of influence. The acceptance of this line—which was named for Sir Mortimer Durand, who induced ʿAbdor Raḥmān Khān, amir of Afghanistan, to agree to a boundary—may be said to have settled the Indo-Afghan frontier problem for the rest of the British period.

  • A joint British-Afghan demarcation survey took place starting from 1894, covering some 800 miles of the border.
  • The Durand Line cuts through the Pashtun tribal areas, dividing ethnic Pashtuns and Baloch who live on both sides of the border. It demarcates Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of western Pakistan from the eastern and southern provinces of Afghanistan.
  • The document was to be ratified by the legislative body in Afghanistan. It never happened. It was to remain in force for one hundred years. It has not been revived on the deadline, which was 1993.
  • The Line was devised by the British to strengthen the status of Afghanistan as a buffer between the British India and the expanding Russian empire desirous of reaching the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and for that matter the rich colonial lands of the subcontinent of India.
  • From a geopolitical and geostrategic perspective, it has been described as one of the most dangerous borders in the world. Although shown on maps as the western international border of Pakistan, it is unrecognized by the Government of Afghanistan.

The recent issue

The recent U.S. assertion that Durand Line is the international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan has triggered a fresh war of words between the two neighbours. Recently, in an interview to a private television channel in Kabul, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman said that Washington recognised the Durand Line as the international border between the two countries. Soon after, Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement that it rejects and considers irrelevant any statement by anyone about the legal status of this line.

Afghanistan’s stance

Afghanistan’s contention is that the Durand Line Agreement — signed by the erstwhile governments of Afghanistan and India (under the British) to demarcate their respective territories — was valid only for 100 years and the land that was made part of the British holdings should return to the Afghans. Even among the Pashtuns in Pakistan, a section advocates this position, primarily because of ethnic loyalties and general demand for a Pashtunistan.

Pakistan’s view

Pakistan rejects the 100-year time frame of the agreement and maintains that binding bilateral agreements are passed on to successor states, making the Durand Line the official Pakistan-Afghanistan border. In fact, Pakistan is prickly about the border with Afghanistan being called the Durand Line. Reacting to the statement form Washington, Pakistan maintained that the Durand Line issue was a settled and closed one for Islamabad.



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