The Durand Line has come under the spotlight recently, after U.S occupation of Afghanistan and the Global War on Terror leading the chase of Al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents into Afghanistan and the sheltering Pakistan. The dispute has moved from a regional problem to a global one affecting neighbours and the big powers feeling responsible for global security.
The internal political situations of each respective country need to be taken into consideration before embarking on a possible peace process. Upon this, a trade programme should be devised to increase co-operation between Afghanistan and Pakistan in the hope of removing the distrust and instilling confidence in one another. The help of the international community is needed here to take the lead in bringing Afghanistan and Pakistan closer together and to reassure them of implementation of results.
The Durand Conference organised by the Institute for Afghan Studies in July 2007 revealed that the issues acting as the main sources of division between Afghanistan and Pakistan were cross border movements, national security and trade (The American Institute of Afghan Studies, 2007). Before progress can be made on the Durand Line dispute, issues preventing the parties from reaching the discussion table, such as these, need to be solved first.
The first important step needed in order for progress to be made on this issue is an acknowledgement that a solution is needed. It must be said that “a comprehensive settlement to secure Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan is long overdue and urgently required” (Dawn, 2006). A peaceful, mediated dialogue is needed putting aside unreceptive difference in order to reach common ground, “dispute needsto be settled by the ballot not the bullet” (Amin, 2004, p.12).
The Durand Conference points out that the key to dialogue is the acknowledgement of the Durand Line as an internationally recognised border. However, urging Afghanistan to accept the Durand Line as the de facto border between herself and Pakistan is unrealistic when one thinks about Afghanistan’s situation and stance on the issue. Although President Hamid Karzai does not publicly dispute the border, he is reluctant to accept it officially. As well as keeping in tradition with previous Afghan governments in refusal to legitimise the Durand Line, Karzai cannot afford to officially recognise the line due to Afghanistan’s weak and vulnerable internal situation. The sensitivity of the issue would jeapordise the rebuilding of the country, if Afghanistan offered a concrete recognition of the mutual border to Pakistan and the international community. It may spark protest from the Afghans as well as officials in the government itself. Priority will be given to internal developments rather than put the stability of the country at risk
Evidently, internal weaknesses present a major obstacle to negotiations, let alone a solution. Border related confidence building measures could create the preferable situation needed through co-operation in trade especially (The American Institute of Afghan Studies, 2007). This would encourage cooperation as well as provide each other with economic benefits that would strengthen the respective countries enough to allow them, particularly Afghanistan, to embark on discussions confidently.
A report by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) suggests that trade “would strengthen democracy in both states and facilitate both Pakistan’s access to Central Asia and Afghanistan’s access to the sea and would lessen domestic ethnic tensions and strengthen national unity in both states” (Rubin and Siddique, 2006).
Disregarding the Pakistan-Afghanistan agreement on shipping which in effect legalises smuggling, an enhanced trade and transit agenda needs to be conjured up to provide attractive mutual benefits to the countries.
However, the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan has predominantly been difficult and hostile creating a bitter mistrust between the two. The present stalemate in the uncompromising dispute between the two countries requires attention from the international community to kick start a confidence building process in exchange for long term security guarantees and a substantial aid package (The American Institute of Afghan Studies, 2007).
Coming back to Afghanistan’s instability, it is important note the country is not yet ready nor ripe to embark upon a concrete plan to resolve the stalemate that is the Durand Line.
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