Sir Henry Mortimer Durand (1850-1924), Indian Civil Service, Foreign Secretary to the Government of India, 1884-94; Ambassador to Washington 1903-06. Son of Major-General Sir Henry Marion Durand (1812-71). Major-General Sir Henry Marion Durand served in the Indian Army; Agent to the Governor-General, Central India 1857-58; Lieutenant-General of the Punjab 1870-1871.
There are many curious facts about Afghanistan, and if you are related to SuperClaire (who's grandmother has the maiden name of Durand) then perhaps you will be interested to know the story of the so-called Durand Line. The British signed a document with Afghan King Abdul Rahman Khan in 1893 referring to the borders between Afghanistan and British India. The border was devised by British Colonial Officer Sir Henry Mortimer Durand and thus became known as the Durand Line. The story of the Durand line is, in essence, the story of how Afghanistan was created.

Throughout the 19th century, the two major forces in Asia were the British, who were slowly moving North, and the Russians, who were slowly moving South. Britain gradually took over the entire Indian sub-continent and, during the same period of time, the forces of the Czar of Russia were taking over Turkic speaking areas, such as Samarkand and Bukhara.

Peter the Great of Russia had decreed that Russia must find a warm-water port. The British feared that Russia would try to establish that warm water port in Karachi. Meanwhile, Yakub Beg, the ruler of Kashgar in Turkestan, wanted to establish a country called "Greater Turkestan", which would encompass a two thousand mile long Turkish speaking area, from Urumqi in the Xinjiang Republic of China, to Istanbul. Both the Russians and the Chinese were terrified at the prospect of such a large country at their borders. Yakub Beg had invited the British to come to Kashgar and the Russians were worried about this.

Therefore, the Russians and the British made a deal. The Russians would stay North of the Oxus River. The British would stay south of the crest of the Himalayas. In order to make sure that neither country would come into conflict with the other, a sort of no-mans land was set up. A buffer state was created which would be in between the Russian and the British Empires. The name of that Buffer State was Afghanistan, the place of the Afghans. No such country had existed previously.

This is the reason why an arm of Afghanistan reaches out and touches China. That arm is called the Wakhan Corridor. There, the northern border of Afghanistan is the Oxus River. The southern boarder is the crest of the Himalayas and Hindu Kush mountains, which converge together at that point. It was important to the British that Russia never touch India. For this reason, the Wakhan Corridor, which is only eight miles wide at its narrowest point, was made part of Afghanistan and was extended to touch China.

While these negotiations were going on, the Russians were holding the King of Afghanistan in jail. Pursuant to their agreement to set up the buffer state of Afghanistan, the Russians agreed to let King Abdul Rahman out of jail. They returned him to his country. In 1891, the British drew what became known as the Durand Line. Everything North and West of that line was Afghanistan. Everything South and East of the line was British India, an area which is now in Pakistan.

Another curious fact about Afghanistan is that it is split in two by the second highest mountain range in the world, the Hindu Kush. The people north of the Hindu Kush have little in common with those south of the Hindu Kush. Their language is different as well as their religion. South of the Hindu Kush, the speakers are primarily Pashtu. North of the Hindu Kush, mostly Turkic languages are spoken, as well as Farsi.

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