Memorandum by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs ( Jernegan ) to the Acting Deputy Under Secretary of State ( Murphy )



  • Line Vice President Nixon Should Take Re the “Pushtoonistan” Issue1


“Pushtoonistan” is an imaginary political and geographic conception which Afghanistan wishes to bring into reality by creation of a new state from the territory and inhabitants of a broad area of Pakistan extending along the entire length of the Afghanistan–Pakistan frontier.

Afghanistan has long maintained an active interest in the Pathan peoples on both sides of the frontier. Afghan governments traditionally resisted all efforts of the UK and British Indian governments to incorporate the Pathan tribesmen of the northwest frontier of India into the Indian provincial administrative system. This interest stems [Page 1404] largely from (1) very old ethnic and cultural ties with all Pathans, including the Pathan royal family in Kabul, and (2) the realization of successive Afghan governments that their tenure depends primarily upon the good will of Pathan tribesmen, who have been capable of unseating several regimes in Kabul.

Upon the partition of the Indian Subcontinent a referendum was arranged in the Northwest Frontier Province by the relinquishing British authorities giving the inhabitants, largely Pathans, an option to accede either to Pakistan or to India. They chose Pakistan. Pathan tribesmen in the unadministered tribal territory of British India also acceded to Pakistan through documents of accession. Afghanistan unsuccessfully attempted at that time to have a third option included in the referendum an option for independence. Frustrated in that attempt, the Afghans have since supported and energetically propagandized the creation of an independent nation of Pat an tribesmen to be called Pushtoonistan.

Afghanistan’s demand for an independent Pushtoonistan nation rests essentially on the following claims:

The Durand Line (the international boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan) is not a legal territorial boundary (the Durand Line was demarcated by Sir Mortimer Durand and accepted by Afghanistan and British India as the territorial boundary by agreement signed on November 12, 1893. It was confirmed by the Amir Habibullah in 1905; in the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of Peace of August 8, 1919 and the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of Friendship of November 22, 1921);2
The Pathans of so-called Pushtoonistan are unhappy under Pakistan rule and should be given an opportunity to confirm their desire for independence.

Pakistan’s position is that the Durand Line is a legal territorial boundary; hence Afghan interest in Pathans east of the Durand Line constitutes an unwarranted intervention in Pakistan’s domestic affairs.

Since partition, and up to the present writing, vituperative propaganda warfare over this issue, periodic border incidents, and sporadic economic harassment of Afghanistan by Pakistan have contributed to the serious deterioration of relations between the two countries. Unsuccessful efforts in 1948–49 to resolve this issue resulted in the recall of both the Pakistan and Afghanistan ambassadors. Various third parties, including the British Government, the Shah of Iran and the Saudi Arabian Government, have unsuccessfully tried to bring the disputants together to discuss their differences. In 1950 the U.S. offered [Page 1405] its informal good offices in an equally unsuccessful effort to bring the two countries together. All such efforts have foundered basically over the insistance of the Afghans to have the Pushtoonistan issue specifically inscribed on an agenda of discussion and the refusal of Pakistan to accept such an item.

In September 1952 Pakistan sent an Ambassador to Kabul (the first since 1949), reduced the volume of its anti-Afghan propaganda, and otherwise made conciliatory gestures towards Afghanistan. Meanwhile Afghanistan still refuses to send an ambassador to Karachi until it can announce that Pushtoonistan will be a subject of discussion. To date Pakistan has not accepted this condition. Rather it consistently maintains that it is agreeable to discussing issues of “common interest.” Recently, there have been major changes in the Afghan Cabinet, and the new Prime Minister, Prince Daud, has been one of the most energetic proponents of “Pushtoonistan” and the attendant agitation, which has been a cause of concern to Pakistan. During the past week, the Afghan Government informed the UK that it no longer considered the Treaty of 1921 valid due to changed circumstances in the Indian Subcontinent, and requested that conferences be held to consider the new situation.3


That you sign the attached telegram (Tab A) to Embassy Kabul4 drafted in response to Kabul’s 185 (Tab B).5

  1. On Oct. 7, 1953, Vice President Richard M. Nixon and his party embarked upon a goodwill tour of the Far East. In addition to visiting various Far Eastern states, the Vice President also journeyed to South Asia, where he visited Ceylon, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. He visited Afghanistan from Dec. 4 to 6. After a final stop in Iran, the Vice President and his aides returned to Washington on Dec. 14. For additional information, see the editorial note under date of Oct. 7 in volume XII. Extensive documentation regarding the trip is in Department of State file 033.1100–NI.
  2. On Mar. 21, 1905, Amir Habibullah signed an agreement with Louis W. Dane, Foreign Secretary of the Government of India, which, inter alia, confirmed the agreement of 1893 which established the Durand Line. The Durand Line was also accepted in the Anglo-Afghan treaties of Aug. 8, 1919 and Nov. 22, 1921. Texts of these agreements are printed in A Collection of Treaties, Engagements, and Sanads Relating to India and Neighboring Countries, vol. xii, pp. 282–283, 286–292.
  3. Reported in telegram 180 from Kabul, Nov. 23. (689.90D/11–2353)
  4. Infra .
  5. In telegram 185 from Kabul, Nov. 28, the Embassy asked for instructions in the event that the Afghan Government made a strong appeal on the Pushtunistan issue to Vice President Nixon when he arrived. (689.90D/11–2853)