Durand Line not Recognised by Taliban Causing Clash with Pakistan
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 18 Sep , 2021

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The taking over of Afghanistan by the deadly terrorist organisation Taliban on 15 August 2021, reverabrated with celebration in Pakistan. However, Pakistani officials fear that once again the dispute between the two countries may escalate over the Durand Line, which is the 2,760 km boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The western end runs to the border with Iran and the eastern end to the border with China. Mortimer Durand, a British diplomat of the Indian Civil Service, and Abdur Rahman Khan, the Afghan Emir, to fix the limit of their respective spheres of influence and improve diplomatic relations and trade, established the Durand Line in 1893 as the international border between British India and the Emirate of Afghanistan.  The previous Afghan government and the Taliban have also long opposed the Durand Line. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told a Pashto channel in Pakistan that Afghans oppose a fence built by Pakistan on the Durand Line.

The Durand Line divides ethnic Pashtuns, who live on both sides of the border. It demarcates Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan of northern and western Pakistan from the northeastern, eastern, and southern provinces of Afghanistan. From a geopolitical and geostrategic perspective, it has been described as one of the most dangerous borders in the world due to smuggling and terrorism since the 1980s.

In June 2016, Pakistan announced that it had completed 1,100 km of trenches along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border (Durand Line) in Balochistan to check movement of terrorists and smugglers across border into Pakistan from Afghanistan. Plans to expand this trench/bund/fence work were announced in March 2017. The plans also included building 338 checkpoints and forts along the border by 2019 which have now been completed.

In 2017, amid cross-border tensions, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that Afghanistan will “never recognise” the Durand Line as the border between the two countries.

Afghanistan’s majority Pashtuns and Taliban have never considered the Durand Line as an official borderline. Zabiullah Mujahid had said that the new Afghan government would announce its position on the issue. The fence built by Pakistan has separated people and divided families. We want to create a safe and peaceful environment along the border, so there is no need to create barriers.

The Pashtun led Taliban has never recognised the Durand Line between Afghanistan and Pakistan and is the cause of trouble between the neighbours’ post-1947. With the Taliban’s swift militant victory over Afghanistan, Pakistan would want to get the Taliban to accept the border, which in turn, will give it strategic advantages in the long run.

As Afghanistan is a landlocked nation, it is unable to access the sea through Baluchistan as the Durand Agreement carved out most of the territories, which are now a part of Pakistan. Post-1947, there is a growing demand to merge Pashtun dominated territories with Afghanistan as Pakistan has no locus standi to keep Pashtun dominated areas under its control. 

Various governments of Afghanistan remained desirous to get access to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan’s province of Balochistan, where they are supporting insurgency.

It is mentionable that human and drug traffickers, criminals and terrorists frequently flit across the porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Their easy access through unguarded porous border provides opportunity to miscreants to cause havoc inside Pakistan and Afghanistan. For effective counter terrorism measures, strong border-control management is vital at Pak-Afghan border. But, Afghan rulers have been using delaying tactics in this respect.

Sources close to the Taliban leadership disclosed that they are committed to working for the creation of Greater Afghanistan after capturing Kabul.Greater Afghanistan comprises Pashtun dominated tribal areas in Pakistan and that makes the Islamic republic vulnerable to Taliban onslaught. Tehreek- e – Taliban (TTP), Islamabad’s arch-foe and the Taliban franchise in Pakistan, is also supporting the call for Greater Afghanistan. Sources said the victorious Taliban would target to procure the nuclear assets of Pakistan to become a regional power. They are also aware that the access to nuclear assets will make them on par with neighbouring China, Iran and India.

The Taliban victory in Afghanistan is going to rock Pakistan adversely. Taliban, which is associated with international terror outfits like ISIS and Al Qaeda will unleash terror in the region. Capturing Pakistan’s bomb assets will make Taliban the first terror outfit with finger on nuclear buttons.

Taliban is also targeting the Muslim dominated areas in neighbouring China. Taliban leadership will cosy up with China to raise funds for their terror activities by selling natural resources. They will adopt Pakistan’s tactics of using “friendly terrorists” to execute specific missions to eke out funds from neighbours in the pretext of beef up security.

TTP will be useful for the Taliban to target assets in both Pakistan and China. TTP rose to prominence in 2007, when Taliban factions fighting the state of Pakistan united under a single umbrella. In the 14 years since TTP has carried out hundreds of attacks that have killed thousands of people in Pakistan. Despite sustained operations by Pakistani security forces, TTP remains intact and is still a potent security threat.

Given China’s ambitious $62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor, the TTP sees Beijing as a natural opponent and has waged war against Chinese interests in Pakistan.

The TTP is targeting Pakistani Army personnel and the Afghan Taliban, who wants to show their power in territories on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to assert its power and influence, is bolstering CPEC and them.

Pakistan is hesitant to contain TTP because that will provoke retaliation in Pakistan’s Punjab heartland. A failure to control the Taliban in Afghanistan and their franchise in the homeland will expose Pakistan’s weakness and subsequently undermine their credibility to secure more funds from neighbours and western allies. Without the flow of any foreign funds, the power of the generals will vapourise. The whole attention is now on the generals and their commitment to tame the monster created by them.

India has to keep a strict watch on both Pakistan and China so that they do not make use of terrorist organisations in J&K and northeast.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Col (Dr) PK Vasudeva

is author of World Trade Organisation: Implications for Indian Economy, Pearson Education and also a former Professor International Trade.

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