No Afghan government, not even the Taliban regime, has ever accepted the Durand Line as the international border with Pakistan; nor would any Afghan leader ever consider such a step. For the Afghans, especially the Pashtuns, the country’s leading ethnic group, it is a symbol of a historic injustice deceitfully forced upon them by the British. For Pakistan, which considers itself as a successor state, to persuade the Afghans to make it the formal border has always been a top foreign policy priority.
Rajiv Dogra’s engaging book, Durand’s Curse, narrates how the Durand Line was ‘negotiated’ by the foreign secretary of British India, Sir Mortimer Durand, with Amir Abdur Rehman Khan, the Afghan ruler, in 1893. But more than that, it is an extensive account of the Great Game in the 19th century between Britain and Russia, with Afghanistan as the hapless victim. That is the sad fate of weak states located in the path, real or perceived, of great powers engaged in prolonged confrontation.