Brezhnev calls -- but is Gandhi listening?
Indian leaders are signaling their growing impatience with the continuing Soviet troop presence in Afghanistan. This comes even as Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev is using the occasion of his state visit to New Delhi to blame other nations -- notably the United States and Pakistan -- for making it impossible for the Red Army to leave.
Mr. Brezhnev's chief spokesman, Leonid Zamyatin, accused the United States of blocking a political settlement by "instigating and organizing" what he called "bandit formations" who enter Afghanistan from Pakistani territory. Such outside interference was the reason the Soviet Union reluctantly responded to 14 separate requests for military aid from Afghan leaders over a lengthy period of time, he asserted.
"When those reasons disappear . . . There would be no more reason for the Soviet military presence in that country," declared Zamyatin, who was relating Mr. Brezhnev's closed-door discussions with Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. "Those reasons are not vanishing," he added. "On the contrary they are becoming more pervasive."
The Soviet spokesman's account of the Brezhnev-Gandhi talks was in sharp contrast to the vague, diplomatic couched replay offered by Indian spokesman J. N. Dixit. Mr. Brezhnev's official spokeman laced his account with jibes at the Carter White House, particularly National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brezinski.
"We couldn't be further away from intentions to occupy Afghanistan," he said. "That is something that is imagined by those who are still sitting in the White House. Of course, I have in mind only advisers."
Earlier, he told US journalists that he wouldn't mention the countries that are instigating outside intervention in Afghanistan. "Well, after all, you're going to have a new administration soon," he said.
Mr. Brezhnev's visit is widely perceived as an attemp to woo Indian acquiescence in the continued Soviet military presence in Afghanistan. At the least, the Soviets hope to keep India from slipping from its studied refusal to publicly join international condemnations of the Soviet invasion.