Afghanistan urged to accept Durand Line

December 06, 2006

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WASHINGTON, Dec 5: The US and its key allies should urge Afghanistan to recognise the Durand Line of 1893 as the border with Pakistan, say two prominent US scholars.

In a joint article published on Tuesday in the Baltimore Sun, Dennis Kux and Karl Inderfurth urge Kabul to override the decision of the 1949 loya jirga, which, “contrary to international law,” declared Afghan agreements with the British not binding after the formation of Pakistan.

Mr Inderfurth is a former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs and Mr Kux is a former US ambassador and a South Asia expert.

Although Mr Karzai does not publicly dispute the border, his government has been reluctant to accept it officially, lest this causes internal political trouble.

“A comprehensive settlement to secure Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan is long overdue and urgently required”, the two scholars argue.

In the article, the scholars suggest several proposals for dealing with the Taliban insurgency which they warn can continue indefinitely if not stopped.

They advise Washington and NATO to continue to work with Pakistan for a more concerted effort to disrupt the Taliban leadership.

They claim that the Taliban have revived their command and control structure, which is now operating from in and around Quetta, and Waziristan.

The scholars acknowledge that Islamabad cannot prevent individual Talibs and small groups from crossing the porous, 1,600-mile frontier, but say that Pakistan can do a much better job of making its territory less hospitable for them.

They also urge Washington to use its influence with the Karzai government to “take greater account of Islamabad’s sensitivities in dealing with India.”

“Islamabad fears that the main function of Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad is to stir trouble across the nearby border, especially to fan the flames of the anti-Islamabad insurgency in Balochistan,” the scholars note.

“Even though India continues to provide generous economic assistance to Afghanistan, Kabul would be wise to try to assuage Pakistani concerns”.

They also advise Washington to urge Pakistan to integrate the Federally Administered Tribal Areas into the country’s political, economic and legal mainstream.

To make it easier for Islamabad to undertake costly reforms needed to integrate the FATA, the scholars urge the United States, the World Bank and other donors to provide Pakistan with substantial additional economic assistance.

The United Nations, the scholars say, should convene a high-level international conference attended by Afghanistan’s neighbours and other major powers concerned.

The goal would be a multilateral accord that recognises Afghanistan’s borders; pledges non-interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs; explicitly bans the supply of arms to nongovernmental actors; affirms that, like Switzerland, Afghanistan should be internationally accepted as a permanently neutral state; and establishes a comprehensive international regime to remove obstacles to the flow of trade across Afghanistan.

“Not addressing the strained relations between Kabul and Islamabad would substantially increase the chances for failure,” the scholars warn.