"If you could just overlook the personal tragedies and the vastly increased Soviet presence all over Afghanistan," a Western diplomat said intently, "I'd say good riddance."

Like many other foreigner's living here, his lack of regret over the bloody downfall of President Mohamed Daoud last April was dictated by its dismal economic development record in one of the 25 countries the United Nations lists as the world's poorest.

"Daoud belonged to that class of ruler who doesn't think the populace matters," an Asian resident remarked. "He wasn't interested in development worth a fig."

"They may all be Marxists in the new government, but at least they're committed to wanting something to happen," a young Westerner said. Under Daoud this country was going nowhere and we should never forget how weak and incompetent a government it was."

Dr. Sham Wali, a 40-year-old surgeon turned planning minister, sighed during an interview and said, "Solving underdevelopment in the third world is as complex as finding a cure for cancer."

Illustrative of landlocked Afghanistan's problems are a thrice-purged, ramshackled and ponderous civil servant, an estimated per capita income of $80 annually; illiteracy estimated at 80 percent; poor transportation; an unskilled population, and lack of any meaningful statistics since the last census was in 1952.

Twenty miles east of Kabul, the village of Bagharami, where the lights of the capital are still dimly visible, typifies Afghan backwardness, although it is certainly far from being the worst in a country where 85 percent of the population is still rural.

It is a village of often windowless mud brick houses, unpaved streets, narrow lanes, no electricity, fetid water that is unhealthy to drink and insufficient for irrigation.

Black-turbanned peasants in baggy trousers and threadbare jackets tick off what they would like to have - paved roads, says one; decent drinking water, says another, so they would not have to keep brewing tea all the time.

A health center, suggests a third. No one says electricity. Even for a kind of Santa Claus shopping list, that idea is simply too far-fetched.

Abdil Momam owns a horse, but no land, and as a landless peasant, has been unable to send his child to school. He wants a roof over his head and work, for which he goes to Kabul regularly to find.

Fellow villager Mohamed Omar figures he is luckier.

"I've had a hard life, not enough to eat," he said, "but we sent eight of the nine children to school."

Do they think the revolutionary government will deliver on such ambitious programs as land reform, ending usurious money lending, stopping the bride price system?

A party official translates Abdul Moman's words: "I want the government to continue. We are happy to see it. We are poor. Our only hope is that they give us something."

Just what the government intends to do is unclear and will likely remain so until next September, when the new five-year plan is to be published.

But indicative of the thinking was Shah Wali's answer when asked about rumored nationalizations.

"There is nothing worth nationalizing and it would not be profitable to nationalize commerce or small industry."

Hafizullah Amin, the foreign and defense minister and Number Two man in the government, insisted in an interview that agriculture should be the key development priority.

Such is sweet music to the ears of Western development specialists, who believe the country's vocation is essentially agricultural.

But they still fear that the new rulers will be tempted by Stalinist heavy industry schemes.

They point to more than 80 deals announced since the coup, all involving the Soviet Union, which handled 60 to 70 percent of Afghanistan's foreign trade even under Daoud.

Shah Wali insisted that all these deals would be financed by a $415 million Soviet credit which the Daoud government never used.

But Western analysts studying the Soviet list believe Moscow has pressed projects which fit neatly into its own strategic priorities, but not necessarily Afghanistan's.

They include expansion of copper mining, exploitation of at least 12 million tons of oil reserves and almost doubling natural gas production, most of which is exported to the Soviet Union on terms unfavorable to Rabul.

Such is the new government's faith in the "great neighbor to the north" that few, if any complaints, are known to have surfaced against Moscow's hard-bargained terms of trade.

Favorite examples are the price of natural gas or of fruit, which regularly are knocked down at the Soviet border.

The gas meters are on the Soviet side of the border. Even after a recent price increase, Afghanistan is selling its natural gas at roughly 95 cents a cubic meter - compared to the world price of $1.95 to $2.00.

Turning a blind eye to the thousands of Soviet experts flooding into the country, Afghan officials have complicated talks with American aid negotiators, now apparently stalled, insisting that U.S. grant aid is 80 percent eaten up by salaries. They want the number of American technicians reduced.

Pushed by the Soviets, who are perenially short of hard currency, the Afghans are trying to enlist Western aid, which until April was kept in rough East West balance at some $60 million annually for each side.

Amin said Afghanistan was interested in not only "consolidating friendly relations with the United States," but in having American aid increased.

The West seems determined to maintain a countervailing presence. Even doubters among Western diplomats are not suggesting conducting agonizing reappraisals of aid policy before another year on the theory the government should be allowed to shake down and prove its oft-repeated independence.

Western development specialists seem less worried by such strategic considerations than by fears that Afghanistan at present cannot absorb even as much aid as is being offered.

Both the human and physical infrastructure is wanting.

Further complicating the problems are the few loyalist technicians who combine cockiness with a dangerous ignorance of how government bureaucracy works.

Already there are reports of highhanded behavior by party extremists in the countryside.

Cynics claim that the new government can afford to ignore the countryside - just at Daoud did - as long as it coddles the cities and the armed forces.

Yet, for the elusive Third World model of development, the new rulers could do worse than look at the patience demonstrated at their own Ariana Afghan Airlines.

Ariana, which has just received a $30 million Export-Import Bank loan to purchase a DC-10, now operates three aircraft at a modest profit. The government owns 51 percent and Pan American the rest.

William F. Wallace, Ariana's executive vice president and a longtime Pan Am employe, explained how Ariana started from scratch more than 20 years ago.

"We took the brightest kids in 1958-1959 at the Institute of Technology and sent the best of them abroad to learn to be mechanics, pilots, accountants.

"By 1965 Ariana, which began with 100 percent American and Indian pilots, was down to only two. It just shows you can do lots of things if you go about it the right way.

"Lots of people go into an under-developed country and say 'the locals are stupid, they cannot do it.' They push them aside and do the work themselves. But the locals have a heck of a lot more ability than they're given credit for. For instance, Afghans make excellent pilots."

What was Ariana's secret for success? "Specific goals and faith in people," Wallace said, and it's probable also more than a little patience.