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  • Jamal Hussain
  • Nov, 2017
  • 471
  • National

India Should Question Legality of Durand Line between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Opines a Renowned Indian Scholar Satish Chandra, an Ex Diplomat

Satish Chandra, a former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan has penned an article where he has recommended to the Indian government to openly side with Afghanistan on the legality of the Durand Line. The title suggests the Indian government officially does not contest the validity of the Durand Line which demarcates the international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The learned scholar goes on to admit that barring Afghanistan, no other nation disputes the legitimacy of the current Pakistan – Afghanistan border. One wonders if the gentleman has considered why?

The scholar has based the invalidity of the Durand Line as the international border on two counts. First, he argues that “it was never intended to constitute an international border but merely to mark the limits of spheres of influence of Amir Abdur Rahman Khan (The Afghan King) and British India.”Perhaps Satish is blissfully unaware of the subsequent treaties, accords and agreements signed by the respective Afghan Kings / governments of Afghanistan and Great Britain, the then rulers of the Indian subcontinent that clearly ratified the Durand Line as the international border between Afghanistan and British India; and subsequently between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Perhaps Satish deliberately cherry picked the evidences to promote his point of view.

Ahmed Shayeq has very eloquently and accurately expressed in his paper Pak-Afghan Relations: the Durand Line Issue that the Durand Line agreement was signed by King Abdur Rahman and the British India in 1893 and initially was restricted to the lifetime of the Afghan king. In 1905 King Habibullah, the son of Abdur Rahman Khan signed another treaty known as Dane-Habibullah agreement where Afghanistan’s continued commitment to the Durand Line was reaffirmed.

Following the 1919 Anglo-Afghan war a peace agreement was signed between Great Britain and Afghanistan on 8 August 1919, (Rawalpindi Agreement) where the validity of the Durand Line was protected through article 5 of the treaty, which stated: “the Afghan Government accepts the Indo-Afghan frontier accepted by the late Emir Habibullah Khan.”

On 22 November 1921, another agreement titled “establishment of friendly commercial relations between Afghanistan and Great Britain”, also called the Kabul Agreement was concluded by the two. The Kabul Agreement of 1921 superseded the Rawalpindi Agreement of 1919 and recognized the Durand Line as an international border of Afghanistan. Thus, for the first time, recognition of the Durand Line by the two states as an international border between Afghanistan and British India was set free of any personal undertaking by the kings, and both states agreed to it as a permanent border between them.

To summarise, Satish Chandra’s first argument that the Durand Line was never intended to constitute an international border is not supported by history. His second bullet advocating his suggestion to the Indian government to openly side with the Afghanistan’s version of the Durand Line controversy is his contention that “Pakistan has consistently failed to observe the assurance of non-interference “in the territories lying beyond this line on the side of Afghanistan”. May one remind Satish of the intervention history in Afghanistan by both Pakistan and India.

Pakistan did directly and openly intervene across the Durand line during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Working in league with the USA who provided modern arms and weaponry to the Afghan Mujahideen and Saudi Arabia’s substantial financial support, Pakistan played the crucial part of coordinating the entire war strategy and serving as a conduit. The Soviet forces were eventually expelled out of Afghanistan. India during the entire period was a silent partner of the Soviet aggressor. This was Pakistan’s major intervention across the Durand Line.

During the 1990s Pakistan’s principal effort in Afghanistan was to help end the murderous civil war there. Pakistan’s concern about instability in neighboring Afghanistan is justified as it directly impinges on its national security. Some of the covert and overt support Pakistan provided to various combatants inside Afghanistan was, with hindsight, unwise but the motives were always noble—bring peace to the war torn nation. What justification does India have to brazenly interfere in Afghanistan when it does not even have common borders with the country; perhaps Satish can better explain. He has in a way laid bare the Indian design in Afghanistan which is solely built on the edifice of using it as a platform to malign,...

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