Memorandum of Conversation, by the Acting Officer in Charge of Pakistan–Afghanistan Affairs (Gatewood)


Subject: Pakistan Position regarding US Approach of November 6.

Participants: Mr. Mohamad Ali, Secretary-General of the Government of Pakistan
Mr. M. O. A. Baig, Minister, Embassy of Pakistan
SOA—Mr. Mathews, Mr. Gatewood


To ascertain the answer of the Government of Pakistan to the US approach of November 6.

Action Required:

To clarify the Pakistan position.

Action Assigned to:


In the course of Mr. Mohamad Ali’s call at the Department, Mr. Mathews took occasion to express his disappointment that (as reported by Ambassador Warren after his conversation of January 4 with Mr. Mohamad Ali) the Government of Pakistan wished to take no further action on the US approach of November 6 unless the US should make explicit its view that the Durand Line constituted the international boundary of Pakistan.

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Mr. Mohamad Ali said he had not wished to give the Ambassador the impression his Government would flatly refuse the US approach unless the US position were altered and that he had personally hoped that we would be willing to change our views, possibly during the next week or so before the Pakistan Prime Minister returned from his political tour of the Punjab.

The Pakistan Secretary-General presented the following arguments for a change in the US position:

The Durand Line was a question of fact only and did not involve a policy decision; therefore, there was no reason why the Afghans should not be told that the US accepted it. This would not be an unfriendly act, as the US could make it clear that such a statement had been requested by Pakistan.
The proposed informal talks would almost certainly break down on this issue, as the GOP would not even discuss the possibility of giving, up any territory to the east of the Durand Line and it appeared that the Afghans were absolutely determined to raise this issue; therefore, unless the Afghans clearly understood that the boundary could not be called-in question, “those blackmailers” would do everything possible to obtain a propaganda victory such as Pakistan had once before refused them, when Shah Ali had requested that the administered areas of the NWFP be renamed “Pushtoonistan”.
If Afghanistan raised the question of Pushtoon independence, the GOP might well reply that the majority of Pathans (on the Pakistan side of the Durand Line) were anxious to liberate their brethren from the inept and undemocratic Government of the Mohammed Zias, with the result that Afghan–Pakistan relations would deteriorate still further.

Mr. Mohamad Ali said that the British had been surprised at the US attitude concerning the Durand Line (Mr. Mathews immediately assured him that there was no cause for this, as the British should have well understood our views); that the GOP now had proof that India was subsidizing Afghanistan to promote unrest in the tribal areas, as well as allowing a good deal of agitation for Pushtoonistan within India; and that, if the Kashmir question were settled, Afghanistan would immediately abandon its sponsorship of Pushtoonistan.

Mr. Mathews said he found it difficult to understand the Pakistan viewpoint: It seemed clear that, at this stage, we could hardly make a pronouncement concerning the Durand Line just because Pakistan requested it, as the Afghans would then doubt our good faith. Our approach of November 6 had been specifically designed to promote general, informal talks without attempting to suggest an agenda, because we thought some improvement in. Afghan–Pakistan relations would emerge from these talks, even though some issues remained unresolved. Mr. Mathews further pointed out that the Afghans had [Page 1938]“a pretty good idea” of our views concerning the Durand Line; that there was no question that our recognition of Pakistan in 1947 implied our acceptance of the Line; but that we still believed that we should not make an explicit statement on this point at this time.

Mr. Mohamad Ali said that, of course, the Department had not bothered about details like an agenda, but that he expected the Afghans would press for some encroachment on Pakistan territory; that “those blackmailers” would try to maintain the despotism of the Afghan royal family, which had done nothing for the Afghan people in its twenty years of rule; and that perhaps the Department considered the present Afghan regime more high-minded and liberal than it really was.

Mr. Mathews replied that we did not take quite so dark a view of the Afghan situation; that we also wished to encourage democratic elements in Afghanistan; that if Pakistan refused the US approach, this action might strengthen the hands of the extremists and prevent moderate influences from making themselves felt so as to allow improved relations with Pakistan. He said he did not think the Department would change its stand against making a statement as to the Durand Line in the present situation.

Mr. Mohamad Ali said that, however good US intentions might be, he thought the US initiative in this matter might unhappily result in further unstability in the Frontier area. He said his government “would try to meet” the Department on this point and that he would cable the Prime Minister about it, so that a definite reply might be given to Ambassador Warren when Liaquat returned from his Punjab tour.