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How British Colonizers Sowed Seeds for Decades-Long Conflict On Afghan-Pakistan Border

© AP Photo / Massoud HossainiPakistani refugee children at Gulan camp, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the border in the restive Khost province, Afghanistan on Jan. 19, 2015.
Pakistani refugee children at Gulan camp, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the border in the restive Khost province, Afghanistan on Jan. 19, 2015. - Sputnik India, 1920, 14.01.2023
Last year saw a surge in clashes along the Durand Line, which stretches 2430km and is often referred to as one of the world’s most dangerous borders.
The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is severely disputed territory: no Afghan government has ever recognized it, mainly for ethnic reasons.
The border between the two nations was drawn in accordance with the one-page agreement of 1893 and then slightly modified based on the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of 1919.

One of Most Dangerous Borders in the World

Starting in so-called "Pashtunistan" - the area where ethnic Pashtuns live - the Durand Line goes south, dividing it, as well as Balochistan - the land of Balochis - into two parts, one being in Afghanistan and another in Pakistan.
The Durand Line - never recognized by any Afghan government - witnessed an increase of armed clashes between Pakistani and Afghan forces last year.
Most recently on 15 December, Afghan border forces, completely unprovoked, opened artillery fire on Pakistani civilians, as a result of which six Pakistani nationals were killed and 17 others injured, according to the Pakistani MoD. The shelling reportedly broke out as Pakistani workers were repairing the border fence dividing the two countries, that was damaged on 11 December during a similar clash.
In November, armed conflicts occurred in the Afghan province of Paktia, along the Durand Line.
But what can history teach us about today's conflict on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border?

Why is the Border Such a Hotbed of Conflict?

The border, agreed on 12 November 1893, emerged as a result of the second Anglo-Afghan war, won by British-led Indian troops.
After the first Anglo-Afgan war, when British-led Indians had been defeated, colonialists decided to take revenge, initiating the second war against the Afghan rulers. This time the British succeeded to install an Amir (ruler) in Aghanistan and seize control of numerous frontier areas.

In 1893, Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, a British diplomat and civil servant of colonial British India, was sent to Kabul to sign the treaty about the division of the spheres of influence of the two states and the Durand Line Agreement was thus reached.

The Durand Line divided ethnic Pashtuns, as well as Baloch people and other ethnic groups, living on both sides of the border between the two countries. The territorial division, unilaterally decided on by the British rulers, laid the foundations for instability on both sides. Afghan Amir, appointed by the British, conquered Nuristanis to convert them to Islam.
At the same time, another tribe - the Afridi - began an armed uprising against the British Raj, creating a zone of instability between Peshawar, the major city of today's Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and the Durand Line.
Later in the 20th century, as a result of the partition of India in 1947, Pakistan inherited the 1893 agreement along with subsequent treaties. Afghanistan was eager to review the border treaty that has always reminded the country of its defeat by colonial forces, and the newly formed Pakistan was a chance to reestablish territorial division.
However, international law states that a newly established sovereign should not make any additional agreements to those set by its predecessor state. Pakistan preferred to maintain its territory within colonial limits, giving the Pashtun and Baloch population the choice either to stay on the Indian or Pakistani side, without considering their reunification with Afghanistan.
Because of Pakistan's refusal to hold talks about the land which Afghanistan claims, the two neighbors have been locked in a number of disputes that immediately turned into severe armed confrontation that has lasted more than seven decades and is now exacerbated by various modern challenges and newly arising bilateral matters such as Afghan refugees in Pakistan and cross-border terrorism.
*under UN sanctions for terroristic activities