Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq called today for a stronger American military response to the Soveit invasion of Afghanistan, suggesting that Washington give aid to the guerrillas fighting the Soviet presence.
Zia, who is in Rhodesia to attend its independence celebrartions, also announced that he would meet with Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi here on Friday, apparently to seek stronger Indian condemantion of Soviet actions in Afgthanistan. India, which has close ties with the Soviet Union, has criticized the invasion only in mild terms.
The meeting between Zia and Gandhi, their first, is also to center on normalizing relations, a process that has so far been plagued by mutual mistrust.
Zia's remarks about the U.S. response to the invasion apparently reflect fears in Pakistan that the Afghan guerrillas' resistance to the Soviet-installed regime of Babrak Karmal is crumbling and that American interest in countering the Soviet presence is waning. Pakistan's proclaimed policy has been to oppose use of its territory to assist the Afghan guerrillas.
"The Afghan rebels are breaking down" said a Pakistan well-informed on the situation.
"We see that people in due course U.S. newspapers you no longer see front-page mention of Afghanistan," he said.
Asked whether he thought the American response had been adequate, Zia, replied, "I wish it was . . . but practical steps are more significant than mere statements."
Asked whether he would like to see U.S troops in the region, Zia said, "If you're looking for America playing its role under the circumstances -- the war has been brought to the soil of Pakistan -- and in that context America can play its part in some significant manner with its troops."
However, pressed on the role those troops should play, the Pakistani leader seemed to say that military assistance to the guerrillas need not require large numbers of American troops.
"It may not be a very good example, but . . . how many Chinese troops were on the North Vietnamese soil? How many Russian troops were there on the North Vietnamese soil? I leave the rest to your understanding."
Elaborating on Zia's remarks, an official traveling with him said "there is a lot of publicity" about U.S. help for the Afghan rebels "but nothing on the ground. There have been very little pracitical steps."
"So far as we know, there is no military support, none is going through Pakistan. If the guerillas are going to fight, they have to have something to fight with," he said.
Zia reiterated that his country did not want U.S. bases on its soil. "If 80 million people cannot safeguard their own freedom then nobody else in this world can do anything for them to safeguard their own freedom and integrity," he said.
Rather, the Pakistanis prefer to see increased American aid directed at strengthening the country's armed forces while avoiding the risk of Soviet retaliation which it feels would be present if U.S. bases were set up in Pakistan.