Border studies in South Asia privilege everyday experiences, and the constructed nature of borders and state sovereignty. This article argues that state elites in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan during the 1950s and 1960s actively pursued territorial sovereignty through border policy, having inherited ambiguous colonial-era frontiers. By comparing security and development activities along the Durand Line, between Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the better-known case of India and Pakistan's ceasefire line in Kashmir, this article demonstrates that the exercise of sovereignty required a bounded space that only borders could provide and a rejection of competing border zone authorities. The local specificity of each border, however, created the historical conditions in which political elites acted. Combining an archival history methodology with conceptual insights from political geography and critical international relations, this article uses an original integration of two important Asian border spaces into one analysis to highlight tensions between sovereignty's theory and practice.

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