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Durand Line

The political border of India was the line drawn by Sir Mortimer Durand when sent by the noble Marquess (Lord Lansdowne) to Kabul in 1893 to come to an arrangement with tke Ameer of Afghanistan as to the line of division between his dominions and ours. That line, ever since known as the Durand line, was drawn by him, and it constitutes the outer political frontier of the British Empire in that part of Asia. Up to that line all the tribes were within the British Protectorate, although the degree of control which was exercised over them varied much in individual cases, according to the character of the country and the importance of the roads and passes in it, and the degree of order and civilisation prevailing among the tribes.

Lord Curzon of Kedleston, Viceroy of India (1898-1905) and British Foreign Secretary 1919-24), noted in 1907 that "It has been by a policy of Protectorates that the Indian Empire has for more than a century pursued, and is still pursuing, its as yet unexhausted advance. First it surrounded its acquisitions with a belt of Native States with whom alliances were concluded and treaties made. The enemy to be feared a century ago was the Maratha host, and against this danger the Rajput States and Oude were maintained as a buffer. On the North-west Frontier, Sind and the Punjab, then under independent rulers, warded off contact or collision with Beluchistan and Afghanistan, while the Sutlej States warded off contact with the Punjab. Gradually, one after another, these barriers disappeared as the forward movement began: some were annexed, others were engulfed in the advancing tide, remaining embedded like stumps of trees in an avalanche, or left with their heads above water like islands in a flood. When the annexation of the Punjab had brought the British power to the Indus, and of Sind, to the confines of Beluchistan..."

Durand Line The North-West Frontier had a dual boundary an inner and an outer line. The inner line was the boundary of the settled districts of the North-West Frontier Province, the boundary, in fact, of British India proper, and is known as the Administrative border. The outer line was the boundary between the Indian Empire and Afghanistan, and is commonly known as the Durand line. These two lines give three tracts to be dealt with first, the tract inside the inner line, the settled districts of the North-West Frontier Province, inhabited for the most part by sturdy and somewhat turbulent Pathans; second, the tract between the two lines, that welter of mountains where dwell the hardy brigand hillmen: the tribes of the Black Mountain, of Swat and Bajur, the Mohmands, the Afridis, the Orakzais, the Wazirs, the Mahsuds, and a host of others, whose names from time to time become familiar according as the outrageousness of their misconduct necessitates military operations: third, the country beyond the outer line, "the God-granted kingdom of Afghanistan and its dependencies."

What generally happened in the raids on the North-West Frontier was that in the small hours of the morning, a wretched village was suddenly assailed by a gang of perhaps 50, perhaps 200, well-armed raiders, who put out sentries, picket the approaches, and conduct the operation on the most skilful lines. The houses of the wealthiest men were attacked and looted; probably several villagers are brutally murdered and probably one or two unhappy youths or women are carried off to be held up to ransom. Sometimes the raid was on a larger scale, sometimes it is little more than an armed dacoity. The Afghan border is only miles away, and once beyond this the raiders would be safe, for British troops cannot cross the Durand line.

Mortimer DurandSir Mortimer Durand was peculiarly fitted to represent the English imperial idea. By a singular destiny his immediate ancestors played distinguished parts in the two most vital and formidable events which befell the British Empire during the last century: the Napoleonic wars and the Indian Mutiny. His grandfather fought through the Peninsular war as a cavalry officer under Wellington, and won laurels at Waterloo. His father. Sir Henry Marion Durand. spent forty years in the midst of wars and perils in India, and played a decisive part in the fighting in Central India during the great and sinister mutiny of 1857.

Born in India in 1850, Mortimer Durand went to an English school, and afterwards studied for the Indian civil service, rightly held to be the finest career in the British Empire. He entered the Bengal civil service in 1873, and was called to the bar about the same time. The Suez Canal had been navigation some four years before, so he escaped the tedious voyage round the Cape. Arriving at Calcutta, he reported to the Bengal Secretariat, and was gazetted Assistant Magistrate and Collector at Howrah, just across the Hugli from the Indian metropolis.

Mortimer Durand was attached to the Foreign Office of the government of India, thus passing from under the wing of the Bengal provincial government to the larger sphere of the supreme imperial administration. In 1879 trouble once more broke out between the British Indian government and Afghanistan, and matters went so far that an expedition was decided on. and sent across the frontier under Sir Frederick Roberts. To this expedition Mortimer Durand was joined, as political secretary; and by a strange destiny he thus came to traverse the same roads that his father had followed in the first Afghan expedition, just forty years before. Mortimer Durand served as a volunteer in this campaign: and, at the request ot the Commander-in-Chief, the Afghan war medal with two clasps was awarded to him for conspicuous gallantry in action.After the Afghan war. which gained for the commanding general the title of Lord Roberts of Kandahar. Mortimer Durand was appointed L'nder-Secretary and later Secretary in the Foreign Department of the government of India.

Durand Line In 1893 Mortimer Durand, then Foreign Secretary under the Viceroy Marquis of Lansdowne, was sent on a special mission to Kabul to negotiate with the strong and subtle Ameer of Afghanistan a treaty of amity and mutual security. The delineation generally followed tribal boundaries, separating tribes which went to market to Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, Tank and Quetta from those with economic links with Khurassan, i.e., those having Kabul, Ghazni, and Kandahar as their market towns. Only in two cases, with the Mohmands and the Waziris, were tribes divided by the new border. As the plan was made by the British, it was natural that control of hilltops along the border and major strategic points like Kyber, Tochi, Bolan, and Kurram were kept on the British side.

From the biography of the Durand and Memories of Amir, and the examination of the agreement itself, it appears clear that the Durand Line agreement was not signed under duress, and that there was popular public approval for the agreement. The negotiations were apparently conducted to the satisfaction of the parties concerned, concluding with the removal of a constant source of misunderstanding arising about the frontier matters.

Durand's mission was deemed entirely successful, and Sir Mortimer Durand was awarded one of the knightly orders especially associated with distinguished service in India. The second of these two orders was later conferred on him, so that he was a knight of the orders of the Star of India and of the Indian Empire. To these was afterwards added the decoration of Grand Commander of the order of St. Michael and St. George. His contact with Lord Lansdowne was destined to bear fruit later on: the Governor-General and the Foreign Secretary formed very high opinions of each other's ability and force, to which they testified decisively in later years.

For many years to come, the diplomatic mission he has just concluded, the drawing of the first "scientific frontier" between British India now Pakistan and Afghanistan, was regarded as a triumph. In the words of his biographer, Sir Percival Sykes, whose book was published in 1926: "Durand served his country right well, and generations yet unborn will benefit from the Durand Line that he negotiated." Durand, he added, "stands out in his generation as the great Boundary-Maker and consequently as the great Peace-Maker".

The mission to the Ameer was Sir Mortimer's last great work in India. In 1894 he was appointed envoy and minister to Persia, and presently found himself at the court of the Shah Nasr-ed-Din, well known to the outer world by his various European trips. It was a difficult time for the English minister. Russian interests were gradually dominating1 Persia, and the English were slowly losing ground, until it seemed that Persia was almost a Russian province, another Bokhara or Khiva. Sir Mortimer was appointed ambassador to Spain in October 1900, and three years later, he was transferred to Washington. Sir Henry Mortimer Durand died in 1924.

King Amanullah was overthrown in 1929, and was succeeded by King Nadir Shah, father of King Zahir Shah (the last Afghan Monarch). The letters exchanged between the Afghan government and Great Britain unambiguously reaffirmed the 1921 Treaty which had accepted the Durand Line as the legal IndoAfghan frontier.

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Page last modified: 26-03-2017 19:18:59 ZULU