WASHINGTON: The United States needs to condition its aid to Afghanistan on the recognition of the Durand Line as Kabul’s refusal to recognise it unsettles Pakistan, a US lawmaker told a House Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs.
This apparently is the first time a lawmaker, California Democrat Brad Sherman, has suggested conditioning US aid to Afghanistan to the recognition of Durand Line. Mr Sherman, who usually is harsh on Pakistan, put forth this suggestion at a House subcommittee hearing on “Maintaining US influence in South Asia,” on Thursday.
At the same hearing, a senior US official — Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells — reminded Pakistan that India’s interests in Afghanistan were as “real and legitimate as Pakistan’s”.
Mr Sherman proposed conditioning US aid to Kabul while outlining his views on Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan and its fears of a growing Indian influence in that country.
“The Durand line — the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan — has not been recognised by the Afghan government,” he said.
“I realise that’s tough. They’ll say, oh, don’t — but the fact is, as long as Afghanistan leaves open the idea that they’re claiming Pakistani territory, it’s going to be very hard to get the Pakistanis involved, as we need them involved, in controlling the Afghan Taliban,” he explained.
The 2,430km Durand Line is the internationally recognised border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, established in 1896. But it remains largely unrecognised in Afghanistan. India often supports the Afghan claim.
Congressman Sherman explained how Kabul’s refusal to recognise Durand Line, and India’s ambiguous stance on this issue, continues to stir Pakistan’s worst fears.
“And certainly Pakistan sees its enemy as India, and the idea that India would have a cosy relationship with an Afghanistan that hasn’t recognised the border” fans Islamabad’s worries, said the US lawmaker.
None of the two witnesses — Ms Wells and Gloria Steele, acting assistant administrator at the US Agency for International Development, — addressed the dispute over Durand Line.
But Ms Wells did respond to comments by Dr Ami Bera, another California Democrat, who observed that “the more India’s involved in Afghanistan, the more Pakistan seems to get concerned”.
He then asked how the United States would navigate through this issue while seeking to stabilise Afghanistan.
“…We would like to see and appreciate constructive economic investments in Afghanistan’s stability and institutional stability,” Ms Wells responded.
She noted that India has pledged to spend $3 billion in Afghanistan by 2020, investing in “very vital programmes” that Afghanistan needed.
Congressman Ted Yoho, who chairs this House Subcommittee on South Asia, praised India’s positive role in Afghanistan and its “willingness to stand up to China” and asked for provisions in the 2018 US budget to “deepen the US-India security partnership.
Congressman Sherman also raised the issue of missing persons — particularly in Sindh where he claimed both Sindhi and Mohajir activists had recently disappeared. “I look forward to working with you to make official inquiries of the Pakistani government of political activists who have just disappeared, including the brother of a friend of mine,” he said.