The U.S. assertion that the Durand Line is the international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan has triggered a fresh war of words between the two neighbours who as it is have a blow-hot-blow-cold relationship.

Reacting to the second statement to this effect from Washington in four days, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan maintained that the Durand Line issue is a settled and closed one for Islamabad. “We regard it as the recognised international border and it is a position accepted by the international community.’’

The issue was prised open by U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman during his visit to the region over the weekend. In an interview to a private television channel in Kabul, he sad Washington recognised the Durand Line as the international border between the two countries.

Soon after, Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement rejecting the position taken by Mr. Grossman. According to the statement, Kabul “rejects and considers irrelevant any statement by anyone about the legal status of this line’’.

Following Kabul’s assertion, the U.S. State Department reiterated Mr. Grossman statement; adding that “our policy on this has not changed’’. Afghanistan’s contention is that the Durand Line Agreement – signed by the erstwhile governments of Afghanistan and India (under the British) to demarcate their respective territories – was valid only for 100 years and the land that had been made part of the British holdings should return to the Afghans.

Among the Pashtoons in Pakistan also, there is a section which advocates this position; primarily because of ethnic loyalties and the general demand for a Pashtoonistan. Pakistan rejects the 100-year time-frame of the agreement and maintains that binding bilateral agreements are passed on to successor states; making the Durand Line the official Pakistan-Afghanistan border. In fact, Pakistan is prickly about the border with Afghanistan being called the Durand Line.

Meanwhile, Pakistan disputed Afghanistan’s contention that Islamabad had not shared any evidence to substantiate its claim that Swat Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah had hideouts in the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nooristan. According to Mr. Khan, Pakistan had shared a dossier regarding his presence in Afghanistan with Kabul and the International Security Assistance Force based there.

According to Pakistan, Fazlullah – who is also known as Radio Mullah because of his FM station – has been attacking its border outposts from Kunar and Nooristan. And, now he is wanted for the attack on Malala Yousafzai. Though Afghanistan has repeatedly rejected Pakistan’s allegation, author Ahmed Rashid recently wrote in The New Yorker that Afghan officials had told him in private that Fazlullah was being used by them to pay back Pakistan with the same coin.

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