Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

What is Durand Line?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Durand Line

Mains level: Afghan refugee crisis

With the Taliban’s seize of Kabul, a huge exodus of Afghan refugees and asylum seekers is outpouring into Pakistan along the Durand Line.

Durand Line

  • The Durand Line is a legacy of the 19th century Great Game between the Russian and British empires in which Afghanistan was used as a buffer by the British against feared Russian expansionism to its east.
  • The agreement demarcating what became known as the Durand Line was signed on November 12, 1893, between the British civil servant Henry Mortimer Durand and Amir Abdur Rahman, then the Afghan ruler.
  • Abdur Rahman became king in 1880, two years after the end of the Second Afghan War in which the British took control of several areas that were part of the Afghan kingdom.
  • He was essentially a British puppet.
  • His agreement with Durand demarcated the limits of his and British India’s “spheres of influence” on the Afghan “frontier” with India.
  • The line stretches from the border with China to Afghanistan’s border with Iran.

An illogical separation

  • In reality, the line cut through Pashtun tribal areas, leaving villages, families, and land divided between the two “spheres of influence”.
  • It has been described as a “line of hatred”, arbitrary, illogical, cruel, and trickery on the Pashtuns.
  • Some historians believe it was a ploy to divide the Pashtuns so that the British could keep control over them easily.
  • It also put on the British side the strategic Khyber Pass.

Cross-border tensions at Durand Line

  • With independence in 1947, Pakistan inherited the Durand Line, and with it also the Pashtun rejection of the line, and Afghanistan’s refusal to recognize it.
  • Afghanistan was the only country to vote against Pakistan joining the United Nations in 1947.
  • ‘Pashtunistan’ — an independent country of the Pashtuns — was a demand made by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan at the time of Partition, although he later resigned himself to the reality of Partition.
  • The proximity of the ‘Frontier Gandhi’ to India was a point of tension between the two countries almost immediately.
  • The fear of Indian support to Pashtun nationalism haunts Pakistan to date and is embedded in its Afghan policy.

Pakistani support against the Pashtuns

  • Pakistan’s creation and support for the Taliban are seen by some as a move to obliterate ethnic Pashtun nationalism with an Islamic identity.
  • But it did not work out the way Pakistan had planned.
  • When the Taliban seized power in Kabul the first time, they rejected the Durand Line.
  • They also strengthened Pashtun identity with an Islamic radicalism to produce the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, whose terrorist attacks since 2007 left the country shaken.

Try answering this PYQ:

Consider the following pairs

Towns sometimes mentioned         Country in news

  1. Aleppo                        — Syria
  2. Kirkuk                         — Yemen
  3. Mosul                          — Palestine
  4. Mazar-i-sharif             — Afghanistan

Which of the pairs given above are correctly matched?

(a) 1 and 2

(b) 1 and 4

(c) 2 and 3

(d) 3 and 4


Post your answers here.
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2 years ago
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opt b

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2 years ago
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kirkuk and mosul is in iraq, so the answer will be [b]

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option b

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