Pakistan reported yesterday that it had made "concrete progress" in the latest round of negotiations with the Soviet-backed communist regime in Afghanistan in drafting the text of an agreement for a settlement of the conflict there.
Speaking to a group of reporters here, Pakistani Foreign Minister Sahabzada Yaqub Khan said the two sides had drafted the texts of what he called the "legal instruments" of four separate parts of an overall agreement that would provide for the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan as well as U.S. and Soviet guarantees of the accord.
He said the texts were "fairly well advanced" as a result of work accomplished in Geneva in late June by Pakistani and Afghan negotiators at the so-called "proximity talks" held under United Nations auspices. Under this arrangement, a U.N. intermediary shuttles between the two delegations, which do not meet in the same room.
"I would say the progress was concrete, purposeful," Yaqub Khan remarked.
The thrust of the foreign minister's comments seemed aimed at convincing a skeptical U.S. administration and public that there is a real chance for obtaining a negotiated settlement of the six-year-old Afghan conflict and that it is time again to test Soviet intentions there.
"We should withhold judgment, however skeptical we might be with regard to Soviet intentions, and put to test their sincerity when they say repeatedly that they are there for a temporary period and that they will withdraw," he said.
Asked whether there was any sign of a shift in the Soviet attitude during the latest Geneva talks, Yaqub Khan said it was difficult to establish with certainty "a causal connection" between the Soviet and Afghan negotiating positions. But he said Pakistan "did notice a seriousness and earnestness in the attitude of the Afghan delegation which we welcome."
It also seemed apparent from the minister's comments that Pakistan feels under much greater diplomatic and military pressure from the Soviet Union to cease its support for the Afghan resistance and come to terms with the communist regime in Kabul. Yaqub Khan said the pressure was "not only additional but it has been heightened" and cited the growing frequency of cross-border air raids and artillery attacks on Pakistani villages. He said this had been coupled with "diplomatic pressure" from Moscow.
While Pakistan "refused to be intimidated," the minister said, "We want a settlement, an honorable settlement. We should pursue these negotiations in a positive spirit." He said the texts drafted at the latest Geneva talks concerned four separate accords that would form parts of one overall agreement. The first is a pledge of noninterference and nonintervention that would be signed between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The second deals with U.S. and Soviet guarantees that those two governments would have to sign. The third accord concerns the return of millions of Afghan war refugees living in Pakistan and would involve international relief groups such as the Geneva-based Red Cross and U.N. bodies.
The fourth would provide the timetable for the withdrawal of the more than 100,000 Soviet troops.