Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chargé in Afghanistan (Jandrey)

Participants: Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs and
Mr. McGhee
Mr. Ludin
Mr. Jandrey

The Foreign Minister began the conversation with the statement that Afghanistan had always been interested in the problem of the tribal peoples and had always sought a peaceful solution thereof. He mentioned that in 1942 the question had been raised by him with the British Ambassador at Kabul1 who told him that the time was not then ripe to seek a solution. Subsequently the issue was again raised at the time the Cripps mission2 came to India and again the same answer was given to the Foreign Minister by the British Ambassador. When partition took place, Afghanistan was not consulted about the tribal area although the Afghan presumption was that this would [Page 1949]be done. When subsequently a referendum was held in the North West Frontier Province, the Afghan Government advised the Pakistani that under no circumstances would it accept the outcome of the referendum as a fair means of resolving this problem. Later, when the question of sending a special Afghan envoy to Karachi arose, the invitation was accepted on the condition that the status of the tribal area would be discussed. Still later, when the exchange of ambassadors was proposed, the Afghans once more inserted a clause relating to the negotiation of differences over the Pathan tribes, and finally the Foreign Minister said that he had made an offer to discuss this vital matter to the Pakistan Ambassador but that no reply was ever received.

In the light of the above evidences of interest, Afghanistan was naturally pleased to accept our proposal of November 6 for the initiation of bilateral talks. The Foreign Minister said that he saw no reason why Pakistan should refuse to discuss this matter as it involved the question of the desire of the Pathan people to decide their destiny for themselves. He said that he could see no reason why they should not be allowed to choose whether they wished to be independent or to be Pakistani. Moreover, the Foreign Minister himself had assured the Pakistani that Afghanistan would not use the willingness of Pakistan to negotiate as an argument against Pakistan in case the Pushtoonistan issue was discussed in the UN or became the subject of arbitration or mediation. He expressed the conviction that if something is not done, serious trouble might result and that the beneficiary would be Soviet Russia. It was, in his opinion, in the interest of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, who need each other, to reach a final settlement. He did not, however, envision negotiations which would resolve all problems at one time.

Mr. McGhee stated that he appreciated the interest of Afghanistan in the Pathan tribes but that this problem, as all others, must be considered in the light of the expansionist policy of Soviet Russia which had no hesitancy in taking advantage of the power vacuums in Asia as well as Europe. There was no question about Soviet aggression, of which we have recently had several clear examples. The United States wished to help all countries to protect themselves from Communism and we have already given evidence of that interest to Afghanistan. He assured the Foreign Minister that our objective in connection with the Pushtoonistan issue was simply to see the matter settled by bringing the two parties together. It is the belief of the United States Government that this is the only way of settling an affair of this kind and we do not wish to antagonize either Pakistan [Page 1950]or Afghanistan, with whom we are both friends, by taking any definite side.

Mr. McGhee then explained that he wished to express several personal observations based on world-wide strategic factors but that he would not make any statement to Pakistan of what he personally thought Afghanistan might wish to consider in forming its policy. He first asked the Foreign Minister whether the Afghan approach to Pushtoonistan was based on legal arguments or on the principle of self-determination. The Foreign Minister replied categorically that it was based on the right of self-determination. Mr. McGhee then pointed out that the principle of self-determination was one enunciated by President Wilson but that this principle was not applicable in the present world. There was in fact, ample evidence that today the trend is all the other way. He cited the example of the unification of Europe where countries were even demonstrating a willingness to drop from the essential elements of sovereignty in the interest of collective security, with which the United States was in full accord. He also mentioned the Arab states which are at present seeking some basis for united action. With particular reference to Pushtoonistan, Mr. Mc-Ghee then made the following points:

That the area called Pushtoonistan was not economically viable.
That the area was not politically viable. He indicated that Pushtoonistan would have no informed or experienced leaders to handle its relations with its neighbors.
The internal political situation in Pakistan was such that Liaquat Ali Khan could not maintain his position were he to make any considerable concessions on the tribal area.
The timing of the present sponsorship of Pushtoonistan is important. We are trying to prepare as rapidly as possible for a united effort in contesting Soviet aggression.

During this period there is a serious question whether keeping the Pushtoonistan issue alive would not harm Afghanistan by creating conditions leading to Soviet intervention. Regardless of the position which Afghanistan might wish to take in the future, it may be better at this time to come to a modus vivendi.

Mr. McGhee then reverted to the question of our proposal for negotiations, saying that Pakistan had not yet reached a decision but that they were on the point of doing so. He said that the point which bothered Pakistan was that of sovereignty over the tribal area and suggested that if agreement on this issue could not be reached at the first meeting, some good would come out of discussions on other points of difference which would eventually lead back to the primary issue. He pointed out that economic problems cannot be separated from [Page 1951]political problems and the question of the welfare of the tribes, which is certainly Afghanistan’s major interest, would again touch on the margin of the central issue.

The Foreign Minister then mentioned in confidence that Faiz Mohammed3 had recently gone to Karachi for the Islamic Conference and while there Colonel Shah,4 the Minister for the Pakistan Tribal Area, had made two amazing statements:

That he was not aware of any approach which Afghanistan had made to Pakistan offering to discuss tribal affairs.
That they should get together themselves informally in order to discuss the matter. Faiz Mohammed replied that he was not authorized to discuss the problem by his Government but that he would be glad to take the matter up when he returned to Karachi.

The Foreign Minister said that subsequently Faiz Mohammed had telegraphed to Colonel Shah suggesting that he come to Jalalabad where the discussions might take place, but the only word received thus far was that Colonel Shah was not in Karachi.

When Mr. McGhee asked the Foreign Minister directly whether he thought any good would come from continuing to explore solutions to problems short of the sovereignty issue, the Foreign Minister said he could not say but he hoped so. Finally, at Mr. McGhee’s urging, the Foreign Minister said he saw no reason why Mr. McGhee should not mention to Liaquat that Afghanistan was hopeful that good would come out of the meeting even if agreement was not immediately reached on the big issue. The Foreign Minister also said that he would give the British Ambassador assurance (which was doubtless passed onto the Government of Pakistan) that Pakistan’s willingness to negotiate would never be raised to the disadvantage of Pakistan in case of efforts for settlement by some other means. This fact also Mr. McGhee might pass to Liaquat Ali Khan.

Mr. Ludin then reviewed briefly some of the historical aspects of the Pushtoonistan issue, stressing particularly that the area occupied by the Pathans had been severed from Afghanistan. His point seemed to be a justification for the existence of a Pushtoonistan issue and the desirability of Pakistan’s recognizing that a problem in fact does exist. It was my impression toward the end of the conversation that the Foreign Minister admitted the desire of Afghanistan to see this issue solved and that over a period of time the Afghan Government during the course of negotiation would be willing to listen to Pakistan’s suggestions and attempt to arrive at some compromise position.

  1. Sir F. V. Wylie.
  2. Mission to India in 1942 of Sir Stafford Cripps, Lord Privy Seal.
  3. Former Afghan Minister of Education.
  4. Col. A. S. B. Shah, Secretary of the Pakistan Ministry of States and Frontier Affairs.