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The Defiant Border
The Afghan-Pakistan Borderlands in the Era of Decolonization, 1936–1965


Part of Cambridge Studies in US Foreign Relations

  • Date Published: December 2016
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107571563

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About the Authors
  • The Defiant Border explores why the Afghan-Pakistan borderlands have remained largely independent of state controls from the colonial period into the twenty-first century. This book looks at local Pashtun tribes' modes for evading first British colonial, then Pakistani, governance; the ongoing border dispute between Pakistan and Afghanistan; and continuing interest in the region from Indian, US, British, and Soviet actors. It reveals active attempts by first British, then Pakistani, agents to integrate the tribal region, ranging from development initiatives to violent suppression. The Defiant Border also considers the area's influence on relations between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India, as well as its role in the United States' increasingly global Cold War policies. Ultimately, the book considers how a region so peripheral to major centers of power has had such an impact on political choices throughout the eras of empire, decolonization, and superpower competition, up to the so-called 'war on terror'.

    • One of the only historical studies of Pakistan's Pashtun tribal area (post-1947), which complements existing anthropological literature on the region and histories of the colonial era to provide readers with a fuller understanding of the region
    • Integrates histories of South Asia, decolonization, and the global Cold War, which provides readers with a holistic view of the region by recognizing the interconnections between international diplomacy, regional developments, subaltern movements, and colonial legacies
    • Considers the impact of non-state actors - Pashtun tribes - on South Asian state-building, which complements work done on state-building in India, extends understanding of the impact of peripheral areas on state power and practice, and expands understanding of the history of Pakistan
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Elisabeth Leake explains why a small and peripheral part of the world, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of the frontier region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, should have had for much of the twentieth century an influence out of all proportion to their size on the politics both of surrounding states and of the great powers. This book is essential reading for those interested in the geopolitics of South Asia in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.' Francis Robinson, Royal Holloway, University of London

    'By putting the politics of imperialism and the Cold War at the heart of the study of the Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier region, this book makes a novel theoretical and empirical contribution to the study of this troubled part of the world. Scholars, students, and policy-makers alike should all read Leake's thought-provoking and carefully researched study.' Magnus Marsden, Director of Sussex Asia Centre, University of Sussex

    'In The Defiant Border, Elisabeth Leake tells the important and neglected story of South Asia's other great rivalry: the contested border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bridging the colonial and post-colonial eras, this book depicts the stubborn endurance of imperial borders, the power of local actors, and the challenges these posed to great powers. Based on impressive research across three continents, carefully argued, and cogently written, this is a major contribution to the study of South Asia in the world.' Robert B. Rakove, Stanford University, California

    '… Leake's The Defiant Border sets out a new, comprehensive, and compelling intellectual roadmap with which to navigate the complex historical terrain that has shaped the Afghan-Pakistan borderlands over the course of the last century.' Paul M. McGarr, H-Diplo

    'In tracing the appeal of the borderlands for various powers, Leake, through gaps in the archives, weaves an intricate historical description that resists any homogeneous linear narrativization of Pashtun as an identity and Pashtunistan as a movement and the complex entanglement of the latter with Kashmir. These contributions are particularly relevant for the current political moment unfolding in Pakistan named the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) - a movement to demand an end to the violence inflicted on the lives of those in the Pashtun borderlands … Leake's book is widely appealing.' Zunaira Komal, H-Net Reviews (

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107571563
    • length: 272 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.42kg
    • contains: 4 maps
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction. 'A doughty and honorable opponent': historicizing the Afghan-Pakistan borderlands
    1. The Pashtun tribes
    2. Geopolitics and state-building
    3. Book structure
    Part I. 'Using a Crowbar to Swat Wasps': The Frontier Tribal Area in Imperial Defense:
    4. India in interwar British imperial strategy
    5. Indian nationalism, the Indian army, and regional relations
    6. The 1936–7 revolt and its aftermath
    7. Indian nationalists, the subcontinent's defense, and the war effort
    8. The Pashtuns and the war effort
    9. Conclusion
    Part II. The 'Opening of Sluice Gates': Plan Partition and the Frontier:
    10. The end of war, imperial decline, and plan partition
    11. Reconciling independent South Asia and imperial defense
    12. The NWFP and the 1945–6 elections
    13. British policy towards the frontier tribal area
    14. Nehru's visit to the frontier and the local decline of the congress
    15. Afghanistan, regional relations, and India's Pashtuns
    16. The NWFP referendum and the future of the tribal zone
    17. Independence and evolving tribal identity
    18. Pakistan and the frontier tribal area
    19. Conclusion
    Part III. 'We are One People and Ours is a Land': The Demand for Pashtunistan, 1948–52:
    20. Britain, the emerging Cold War, and the Kashmir conflict
    21. Kashmir in Indio-Pakistan relations
    22. The development of independent Pakistan
    23. The rise of Afghan-Pakistan tensions
    24. Pakistan and the frontier tribal area
    25. Pashtunistan in regional and international relations
    26. Conclusion
    Part IV. A 'Friendly Point of Return': Pakistan and the Global Cold War:
    27. The emergence of the United States-Pakistan alliance
    28. The impasse in Afghan-Pakistan relations
    29. The frontier tribal area and the one unit plan
    30. Renegotiating Afghan-Pakistan relations in the Cold War
    31. Conclusion
    Part V. An 'Eye for an Eye': Mohammad Ayub Khan and the Collapse of Regional Relations:
    32. India and the United States: democracies reunited
    33. Ayub Khan's ascendancy
    34. Domestic change and integrating borderlands
    35. Daud and Afghan modernization
    36. Violence returns to the borderlands
    37. The 1960 Afghan-Pakistan rupture
    38. The failure of US mediation
    39. The aftermath of the encounter
    40. Conclusion
    Part VI. Conclusion. 'Religion, Land, Lineage, and Honour': The Afghan-Pakistan Borderlands Then and Now:
    41. Pashtunistan then and now.

  • Author

    Elisabeth Leake, University of Leeds
    Elisabeth Leake is a Lecturer in International History at the University of Leeds. She previously held a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at Royal Holloway, University of London. She has published articles in The Historical Journal, Modern Asian Studies, and The International History Review. She is coeditor, alongside Leslie James, of Decolonization and the Cold War: Negotiating Independence (2015), and has coedited a special issue of Contemporary South Asia on South Asia's 'wider worlds'.

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