Gandhi Urges U.S.-Soviet Compromise on a Neutral Afghanistan
Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi said Friday that both the United States and Soviet Union want a settlement on Afghanistan and called for a compromise that would leave a nonaligned government in Kabul.
“We have been talking to your people. We think they are keen on a solution. We believe the Soviets are also keen to come to some sort of conclusion on this,” Gandhi told the National Press Club. He said both sides should “get together and sort it out.”
Gandhi reaffirmed the call he had made Thursday in an address to a joint meeting of Congress for a political settlement that would result in “nonaligned status” for Afghanistan.
Washington wants India to use its influence in Moscow to help bring about a political solution, but Gandhi said he plans no Indian initiative on Afghanistan, where Soviet troops are battling Muslim guerrillas in support of a Marxist government in Kabul. The United States has backed the resistance forces.
“Any compromise that comes about must include both stopping of the intervention and the interference that is taking place at the moment,” Gandhi said. “Neither can be used as a pre-condition, because then there can be no solution. There must be some talks to bring about a position from which a solution would come.”
U.S. officials have objected to equating help for the guerrillas with what they term a “brutal occupation,” and urge a pullout of the Soviet troops without conditions.
U.S. and Soviet officials are expected to meet next week to discuss Afghanistan, the third in a series of meetings on regional issues. Next week, U.N.-sponsored talks involving Afghan and Pakistani representatives are to resume.
Gandhi, who met with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev recently, reaffirmed the nonaligned policies of his mother, Indira, whom he succeeded as leader of the world’s largest democracy after she was assassinated last Oct. 31.
No ‘Apron Strings’
“We will not be tied to the apron strings of any major power,” he said.
Nearing the end of his four-day stay in the capital, Gandhi said he and President Reagan “have had very warm and open talks without any strings, and I think we will get along very well together.
“I found him very forthright, easy to talk to, and most of all, very human,” Gandhi added. “That’s the type of relationship we look forward to with the United States.”
Gandhi also met with Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and other Pentagon officials to hear a sales pitch for Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, of which he has been highly critical.
“We do have reservations about the ‘Star Wars’ project, and in spite of a briefing this morning we’re still not totally convinced of its feasibility,” Gandhi said, calling implementation of the space-based anti-ballistic missile shield “a most dangerous trend.”
Arms Sales Discussed
The State Department said Thursday that the Administration is willing to approve new weapons sales to India, but Gandhi said Washington has been unreliable as a weapons supplier and he is not interested at present.
Gandhi said no “deals” were reached but suggested easing into a renewed arms relationship starting in non-critical areas.
Gandhi also called the nuclear non-proliferation treaty “very unfair” because it treats nuclear and non-nuclear powers differently and said “we will not sign it.”
Gandhi and his wife, Sonia, will fly to Houston today with Vice President and Mrs. George Bush to visit the Johnson Space Center and be honored at a dinner before beginning their trip home.