Japan, a continent away from Europe, is committed to postwar efforts to stabilize the Balkans, and it backed the West in confronting the human tragedy of Kosovo. How are such expenditures explained to the Japanese people when the nation's constitution bans military action?

Kazuo Kodama, the Japanese Embassy's counselor for public affairs, says it is "enlightened self-interest" that spurs Japan to support reconstruction in southeastern Europe.

If one looks at East Asia, Kodama noted, North Korea is posing a serious threat to stability. "This is a chain of responsibilities. Our basic goal is to prevent North Korea from going nuclear. Japan has committed $1 billion for a light power nuclear reactor for North Korea in addition to funds by the European Union. So what do we say to our European friends?" he asked.

Japan is not a member of NATO but deems itself an economic power and a "faithful and dependable ally of the United States." Even in Japan, people have a sense that they are part of the global community with a role to play, he added. "Some Japanese intellectuals voiced concern over such an action outside a United Nations mandate," he said. "This was a fluid situation, with the world community venturing into uncharted territory. Ideally, the United Nations should have a bigger role."

Though Japanese intellectuals such as Masakazu Yamazaki have raised questions about impinging on the sovereignty of other states -- in this case, Yugoslavia -- the Tokyo government did not flinch, Kodama explained.

"Kosovo is far away from Japan, and there was the use of force against a sovereign nation. That is an undeniable fact," he said. "There is a conflict of priorities and values at the end of this century. But we fully understood that the action was legitimate in the face of this human catastrophe."

Minority-group nationalism within sovereign nations is part of the setting of the post-Cold War era, Kodama said, adding, "This could happen not only in southern Europe but in the Middle East or East Timor."

Kashmir's Silent Voice

Before his death, when all of India and Pakistan was bleeding from conflict between Hindus and Muslims, Mahatma Gandhi said, "I see a ray of hope and harmony coming from Kashmir." What about vows this week by leaders of Islamic militant groups from Kashmir to fight to "the last drop of blood" inside India's part of the contested territory? How does extremism evolve?

According to Ayyub Thukar, president of the London-based World Kashmir Freedom Movement, moderate Kashmiris who favor dialogue and political representation have no voice today in the face of rising militancy of the holy warriors fighting Indian troops for control of strategic heights in the Himalayas. Arrests of Kashmiri activists over the years, and frustration of their political aspirations by what Thukar described as electoral tampering by India in a pivotal vote in 1987, have driven many to militancy, he said.

After being driven underground for organizing a conference calling for a plebiscite for indigenous Kashmiris, Thukar had to go into exile 18 years ago, first to Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, then to Britain. "I have spent 18 years, and I still do not have that vote," he said in an interview Wednesday. "We are handicapped, we don't have anything to sell to the people. At the end of the day, politicians have been sidelined and the masses sympathize with the militants."

He said his group's aim is to solve the dispute over Kashmir through adequate representation -- allowing Kashmiri leaders to sit alongside Indian and Pakistani officials when the territory's future is debated. For example, when India and Pakistan agreed in the Lahore Declaration in February to solve the Kashmiri question between themselves, Kashmiris went on strike, "basically against Pakistan," Thukar said.

And if Kashmiris eventually choose to live under Indian control or to go with Pakistan, or with neither, it should be their choice, he emphasized. "Because of this militancy and because of the India-Pakistani dialogue, the aspirations of Kashmiris have been pushed into the background," he said.

"It is our movement and it has been taken over. Who has given you the right to talk on our behalf?" he asked, referring not only to India but also to Pakistan, which claims to champion the cause of Kashmir's Muslim majority.

"Our emotions, our resources have been sacrificed," Thukar lamented.