Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

The Durand Line

Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

The Durand Line

Article excerpt

In an attempt to secure or depict borders or frontiers, several lines were to be drawn in India and elsewhere during the period of the British Empire. These were to include the Durand Line (1893) that was to represent the limits of the respective spheres of influence of British India and Afghanistan in the Pakhtun belt; the Johnson-Ardagh Line (1895) which was to form the basis for defining the border of Ladakh, a territory belonging to the Indian princely state of Kashmir, with Tibet and Sinkiang; the so-called McCartney-MacDonald Line (1899) that was to form part of a proposal for the Kashmir-Ladakh border with Sinkiang and Tibet; the McMahon Line (1914) between Tibet and India in the eastern sector; and the Radcliffe Award/Line (1947) dividing British administered India (excluding the princely states comprising one-third of undivided India, which were technically to become independent, with the lapsing of paramountcy) into India and Pakistan.

The Durand who has lent his name to the so-called Durand Line was Sir Henry Mortimer Durand (1850-1924), Indian Civil Service - at times confused with his father Maj. Gen. Henry Marion Durand (1812-1871). He was born at Sehore, where his father was serving as Political Agent and Resident at Bhopal.

His father, Sir Henry Durand, who later became the Lt. Governor of Punjab, succumbed to severe injuries as a result of a fall from an elephant during a procession in Tonk in the North West Frontier region, on January 1, 1871. His grave in Dera Ismail Khan is at times mistaken for that of his son - due to the son's historical association with the area, ensured for posterity by virtue of the name that he lent to the Durand Line.

Sir Henry was the Political Secretary to General Roberts during the Second Afghan War, 1879. Later he served as Foreign Secretary to the Government of India (1884-1894), in the footsteps of his father who had earlier held that post (1861-1865).

As Foreign Secretary, he was deputed in 1893, as head of a delegation to Kabul, whose twin aims were:

* to persuade the Afghans to relinquish their claims to the trans-Oxus area of Roshan and Shignan, also claimed by Russia under the 1872-73 Anglo- Russian Agreement, in return for the Wakhan strip that was to separate the Indian princely state of Kashmir from Russian territories; and

* to obtain an agreement to split the Pakhtun belt into respective spheres of influence of British India and Afghanistan.

The Pashtuns

The area in respect of which negotiations between the Amir and Mortimer Durand took place has for long been inhabited by the Pakhtuns. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus referred to the land they occupied (between the Oxus and Indus rivers) as Pakhtia. The late Prof. A.H. Dani, a well-known Pakistani historian and archaeologist, wrote that closer to our time the term "Pakhtunkhwa" has been occurring in Pashto literature since the fifteenth century. It has appeared in numerous writings, including those during the reign of Emperor Shahabuddin Ghauri, and more recently in poems composed by Akhund Darwazeh (d. 1838) and Ahmad Shah Abdali.

The landscape of the area (present-day south-eastern Afghanistan and north-western Pakistan, which together comprise Pakhtun territory) is mostly arid and semi-arid highlands. The mountains, which at times attain a height of 7000 ft, have in places basins and valleys where some settlements are to be found. Hardly any roads have been built here. There are varying statistics about the population of the area.1 This area includes the seven tribal agencies of the current Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) - Khyber, Bajour, Mohmand, Orakzai, Kurram, and North and South Waziristan. Also a part of FATA are the six frontier regions and the districts of Bannu, Kohat and Dera Ismail Khan. Tribes on both sides of the frontier intermarry, trade, quarrel, mourn and entertain each other. There has not been much change in the system of their governance. …

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