The dialogue between North and South -- between the rich and poor nations of the world -- has been deadlocked for too long now. Hence it is encouraging to hear the Reagan administration sound a positive tone on a matter of such overriding importance to world stability. US Secretary of State Haig's address to the United Nations on aid for developing nations was conciliatory and constructive. It suggests that the Reagan administration, which has seemed reluctant to take up third-world development issues, is beginning to realize that these are no less relevant to global security than the East-West nuclear balance. In Mr. Haig's words:
"International development reflects the worldwide search for economic progress, social justice and human dignity. Short of war itself, no other issue before us will affect more people, for good or ill, than this search."
Some may choose to interpret the softly articulated US policy as a deft diplomatic effort to assuage West European opinion, which is highly critical of Washington's preoccupation with anti-Soviet strategy. Others may even see in it an American rebuff to the third world. Mr. Haig after all did term the poor nations' call for massive aid transfers from the industrialized countries as "unrealistic." But premature skepticism should not be allowed to obscure the forthcoming elements in the secretary's speech.
It is not unexpected that the Reagan administration should wish to stress private investment and increased trade -- rather than development aid -- as the engine of economic growth. Nor is this an untenable position when one observes the tremendous progress made in such countries as Taiwan, South Korea, Brazil, and others through the encouragement of private initiative and a free market. Making it possible to release the energies of self-reliance and enterprise is precisely what foreign aid is all about.