The Revival of the ‘Forward Policy’
The Emir Dost Mohammed, who had ruled in Afghanistan since returning from exile in 1842, died in 1863. For the first decade after his return, he had little contact with British India and, having learnt his lesson, was also sensible enough to keep clear of the Russians. The relationship with Britain was, as the Governor-General, Lord Dalhousie, described it in 1854, one of ‘sullen quiescence on either side, without offence but without goodwill or intercourse’.1 Initially, the areas of Afghanistan that Dost Mohammed controlled were limited. Kandahar and Herat were effectively independent, while Afghan Turkestan was split between a number of petty Usbek khanates. His prime concern was to recover Peshawar, traditionally part of the Afghan kingdom, and, when the Sikhs and British went to war in 1848, he led a force of cavalry to support the Sikhs and regained possession of the city. However, when the Sikhs were finally defeated at the battle of Gujrat in 1849, he was forced to beat a hasty retreat through the Khyber Pass.