In Afghanistan, just like elsewhere in the world, the British and the French squabbled over archaeology.
In 1921, British archaeologist Sir Aurel Stein, wanted to excavate in Afghanistan. He wasn’t pleased to see his request denied while his French colleague, Alfred Foucher, seemed to be given everything he asked for. When the British Minister in Kabul, Humphrys, approached the Afghan government, he was told it was for security reasons. However, he reported, it seemed ‘possible that objection was really due to Amir being pledged, under an agreement with the French government, to offer Foucher exclusive rights to explore Graeco-Buddhist remains in Afghanistan’ (FO 371/8082).
The India Office found it difficult to understand that ‘the Afghans [could] convince themselves that it [would] really pay to give preference to a French archaeologist over a British’. However difficult it was to believe, the French did sign a convention with Afghanistan. Article 1 gave the French exclusive rights to conduct archaeological research throughout the country; article 11 seemed to mollify this a bit, stipulating that other foreign missions could work in Afghanistan provided the French approved it; and article 12 explained the convention would be valid for 30 years provided work wasn’t interrupted for more than 18 months (FO 371/8082).