PESHAWAR, Nov 1: A senior American diplomat in Pakistan said on Thursday the United States recognised the Durand Line as an international border and if Afghanistan had any other interpretation, “that’s certainly their business”.
“The existing border is recognised as an international border. Now if the government in Kabul has other interpretation, that’s certainly their business,” Richard E. Hoagland, US Deputy Chief of Mission in Pakistan, said at a media roundtable here.
Mr Hoagland was responding to a question on Kabul’s rather angry reaction to US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman’s, comments on the border which Afghanistan has long considered a contentious and un-resolved issue.
Durand Line draws its name from Mortimer Durand, the Foreign Secretary of British India, who demarcated the 2640-kilometre-long and porous borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan following a treaty with Afghanistan’s Amir Abdur Rehman Khan in 1893.
The joint survey team took two years to complete and covered some 800 miles of the borders.
Pakistan as a dominion to the British India inherited the treaty which Afghans believed was imposed on them through coercion.
The Afghans say the treaty — a single page containing seven clauses, was written in English which late Amir Abdur Rehman Khan could neither read nor understand. Pakistan says the border between the two countries is a settled issue and not opens to discussions.
“Look, this is not the Line of Control. This has been recognised as an international border for a long time. I understand that certainly Kabul may have a different point of view and they are certainly well within their right to explain their point of view,” Mr Hoagland maintained.
The US diplomat quoted Ambassador Grossman as describing his recent visit to Pakistan as “the best visit he has had” and said that his meetings with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and military chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and their staff had been “very good”.
“It was a discussion. It wasn’t just one side making their statements and the other side making their statements and then saying ‘okay, thank you, and goodbye’.”
He said that the meeting with Gen Kayani in Rawalpindi had been equally positive and that both countries were trying to identify clearly where the interests were common, things they could work on together, things that could benefit both countries and their people.
“It was a very positive visit. It was positive in the sense that it was part of redefining our relationship,” he said.
He said Pakistan recognised the importance of fighting terrorists and the United States wanted to help Pakistan fight terrorism.
“The sooner we can contain terrorists and begin to defeat terrorism, the more peaceful the region will become,” he said.
He acknowledged that 2011 was a very difficult period for US-Pakistan relations, followed by what he described as the “strategic pause” in the first half of 2012 which did not see “too many decisions” made about the relations.
But he said that behind-the-scene discussions on the three parts of the relations; the civilian-diplomatic relations, military-to-military relations and relations between intelligence agencies.
“We have gone through a difficult period,” he said, adding that both sides had begun to re-engage. “It’s going to be a more mature relationship. It might be a little bit more restrained but that’s good. Its good because what we will do is identify where are the areas that are of mutual interests to both sides.”
He declined to discuss the drone issue “on the record” but said that it was important for the two countries to discuss it.
He said that both countries were looking for the best possible way to make sure that they were working together on this.
But he disagreed with a reporter who asked if he agreed with the drone strikes’ critics that innocent were being targeted in the drone strikes. “I don’t agree,” he said.
The US diplomat denied that the Tehrik-i-Insaaf chairman was taken off the plane in Toronto but acknowledged that he was not allowed to board the plane. He said that no-one was ever stopped by the US immigration for his political beliefs or public statements.
He said that a lot of stories that went out were inaccurate and played out for political purposes.
He also denied that Khan was stopped because his visa status did not allow him to raise funds for his party in the US. He said that Khan was welcomed in the US but he refused to go into details about the reason for stopping him from boarding the plane to the US, citing American privacy laws on the issue.
He said that stopping Imran Khan was a standard procedure and as soon as he went through the process, he was allowed to proceed on the first flight available.
Ghulam Ahmad Bilour
Asked if Washington would follow London on banning Railway Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour from visiting their country for announcing head money on the anti-Islam filmmaker, he said: “We are still reviewing the situation, we will be prepared to make the decision within the next several days.”