- Durand line between Pakistan & Afghanistan, the real dispute between them
Afghanistan is set to dominate the discussions of NATO 2012 Chicago summit this coming weekend. This all the while when Afghanistan is a tragedy and not one the West is ever going to end particularly if its not going to deal with key issues like the Durand line and Pashtun nationalism.
The Soviet Union were there for most of the 1980’s and had to retreat and the only person who appears to have survived going through there has been Alexander the Great locally still known as Sukindar. Thats not surprising as he was just passing through and not setting up camp for a decade or so, something NATO & the Soviet Union should have both learnt before getting involved.
But you do have to ask what the North Altantic Treaty Organisation(NATO) is doing in South Asia in the first place? South Asia is a mighty long way from the Atlantic and NATO principal region of operation is Europe when it was orginally set-up. Don’t forget the premise of the alliance was to ” keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down” in Europe.
But its quite clear with US troops running amok, Afghan troops shooting NATO counter-parts, the campaign is clearing losing the hearts and minds of the Afghans. So its time to bring the troops back home. Its been the beginning of the end for NATO in South Asia sometime ago and their own task was accomplished some time ago with Al-Qaida operational activities broken in the region. More particularly with Osama Bin Laden killed though it should not be forgotten he was actually in the neighbouring country of Pakistan when killed by the US.
Unfortunately, its likely to stay this way particularly with the disputed Western boundary of Pakistan underwise known as the Durand line
orginally set-up by British officials in the Raj (see map above). Resolving something like this will involve at least all the powers around Afghanistan which would include Pakistan, China, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikstan and yes even India. But none of them will be going to the NATO summit, just a number of largely small European states with the US.
One of the things that Pakistan wants is for Afghanistan to recognize the Durand Line. Afghanistan has, throughout history, refused to do so. It was on this basis that it did not recognise the formation of Pakistan in 1947. This habit has continued into the Karzai administration. So you can see why Pakistan, which is under some debatable threat of state failure and disintegration, is so sensitive about the issue.
To compound things we also have Pasthun nationalism along the disputed boundary,with even the suggestion of a new state of Pasthunistan. The map below shows the ethnic concentrations along the Durand line which explains the demands. As a result we have more than a few non-Pashtuns in Afghanistan who are not to psyched about the prospect of being in a state with potentially 11 million additional Pashtuns. In fact, the newly formed United National Front has called for official recognition of the border and the party even has Pashtun members. So some movement is possible in Afghanistan.
But l don’t have much hope for this summit on Afghanistan by NATO, if its not going to deal with the Durand line dispute and Pashtun nationalism demands. Particularly if the main players in the region are not there as well. If these issues and actors are ignored, all peaceful efforts going for the last ten years would go in vain and the whole region once again turn into devastating political turmoil. I personally blame British imperialists like Durand that hatched up such lines in the first place!
Ethnic map of the Pakistan & Afghanistan