The arbitrary line that Mortimer Durand drew in 1893 on a small piece of paper continues to bleed Afghanistan, says former diplomat Rajiv Dogra who has come out with a book on that country’s history and misfortunes.
“Afghans are a proud people. Their greatest desire is to be left alone. Unfortunately their geographical location has been their misfortune. Invading armies trampled upon Afghanistan on their way to conquer the riches of India,” he says.
Dogra was India’s Ambassador to Italy and Romania, the Permanent Representative to the United Nations Agencies in Rome and the last Consul General in Karachi.
He says every great ruler, and each great power, ranging from Alexander to Genghis Khan, the Mughals, the British, the Russians, the Americans and even a regional power like Pakistan has tried to conquer Afghanistan.
“But Afghans refuse to bend. That’s why Alexander had famously said: ‘May God keep you away from the venom of cobra, the teeth of tiger and the revenge of the Afghans’.”
“Durand’s Curse: A Line Across the Pathan Heart”, published by Rupa, has several fascinating details from long-buried archives of history.
Dogra says the “Durand’s Curse” has been a journey of discovery for him.
“I was shocked by the venom of the British as colonial masters. Their cruelty was limitless. The English media was supportive, and the world was powerless against the most powerful empire of that time.
“It is equally shocking to discover that the British had systematically kept under wraps the deception of the Durand Agreement. No one knew how Mortimer Durand made the Afghan Amir Abdur Rahman sign a document in English – a language that he could neither speak nor write,” he told PTI.
He says his book is the “first in the world to reveal these secrets. It is a belated lament about the misfortunes of a simple but brave people. It is their ‘cri de coeur’ (passionate outcry) and an appeal to the conscience of the world”.
On how the idea of the book came to him, Dogra says that it was natural that after writing on India and Pakistan.