The most important outcome of this week's global economic summit at Cancun would be "the beginning of a dialogue" between affluent and developing nations, says Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
"Nobody expects a rabbit out of a hat," said Mrs. Gandhi, the most prominent of the third-world leaders headed for the Mexican resort island.
Discussing her expectations with three correspondents for American publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, Mrs. Gandhi indicated she would not press for "global negotiations," an oft-repeated third-world demand for international talks aimed at equalizing the economic muscle of developed and developing countries.
"I don't want to necessarily use those words global negotiations because they have become like catchwords," said Mrs. Gandhi. "Some form of dialogue is what is necessary on the major issues."
"Suppose you don't use the words," the prime minister continued. "Then everybody says, 'Oh, she has gone back from her stand.' But I feel that the substance is more important than the words."
Mrs. Gandhi's remarks were considered significant because India has been among the most vocal of the third-world nations calling for a "new world economic order."
The phrase, as enunciated by various international conferences, generally involves a massive transfer of resources to developing nations. It would redress , as the third world sees it, the economic imbalance skewed by years of Western colonial exploitation and perpetuated by the industrialized world's commanding position in trade, technology, and international finance.
The Indian prime minister's emphasis on beginning and continuing a North-South economic dialogue also signaled a conciliatory approach to her first neeting with US President Ronald Reagan. The American administration has been emphasizing improved international trade and private investment as keys to world economic advancement for all.
Mrs. Gandhi declined to predict the summit's outcome, adding, "Of course, very much depends on your President (Reagan)."
"In this whole scenario," she explained, "the developed countries have to play a key role. Most of them will be guided to a large extent by what the President thinks."
Indo-American relations are currently at their frostiest in 10 years, mainly because of the US plan to aid India's chief antagonist, Pakistan, militarily and economically in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
But of her meeting Wednesday with President Reagan, she said, "There's no reason it shouldn't go well."
Gandhi aides have said she wants to see North-South issues aired without confrontation to keep negotiations going.
Noting, "There haven't really been talks in depth between the developing and the developed (countries)," Mrs. Gandhi maintained, "there should be a beginning. It seems to us that the door is closed. It should be opened. It's something that is bound to take time but a beginning should be made."
One area of Indian compromise, Mrs. Gandhi indicated, may be support for an energy affiliate too the World Bank. The concept -opposed by the Reagan administration -"made sense to us," Mrs. Gandhi said. "But if somebody has a better idea we're not against considering it."