Soviet bid to 'use' hijacking fails

The Soviet Union seems to have failed in a brief bid to move toward an eventual political settlement of the crisis in Afghanistan. Key in the equation would have been Pakistan, whose flag carrier owned a jet originally hijacked to Kabul, the Afghan capital.

Diplomats in Moscow say it appears the Soviets entertained some hopes at the beginning of the hijack that the crisis might work in their favor.

Stated Soviet policy on Afghanistan is to support talks between the Soviet-installed regime in Afghanistan and its neighbors.

Iran has been decidedly cool to that suggestion; Pakistan, perhaps with a nervous glance at neighboring, rival India and at the large number of Afghan refugees on its own soil, has seemed slightly less inclined to dismiss the idea outright.

Early this year, Pakistan thought it had received a signal from Moscow to start seeking resolution of the Afghan crisis. Diplomats say the Soviets dropped the contention that Pakistan would have to formally recognize the Kabul regime before meaningful talks could start. But all this came to naught.

The Soviets appeared to view the hijack ordeal as a possible means of reviving the "Pakistani option." The official news media here played up the importance of Pakistan-afghan cooperation in resolving the crisis.

A "plenipotentiary" Pakistani delegation was said to have flown to Kabul to help resolve the crisis. The team consisted of Pakistani airline and civil aviation officials, diplomats say.

The Soviet news agency quoted the Pakistanis as expressing "sincere gratitude to the Afghan authorities" for facilitating their entry into Kabul. But when the Pakistanis asked the Foreign Ministry here for any help Moscow might provide in resolving the hijack stalemate, fellow diplomats said, they were told to deal with the Afghan government.

As it happened, the hijackers later diverted the plane to Syria, where its captivate s were finally freed March 14.

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