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Lining up with U.S. a bad move

Use of troops self-defeating for Japan, aid worker says

by Kanako Takahara

Dispatching the Self-Defense Forces to provide emergency support to refugees will only heighten anti-Japanese sentiment in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a volunteer aid worker said.

Tetsu Nakamura

“If people (in Pakistan) see Japanese soldiers in refugee camps, they will consider Japan an ally of the U.S. that they so much hate,” said Tetsu Nakamura, a doctor who left Islamabad for Tokyo just after U.S.-led forces launched retaliatory strikes Sunday against suspected terrorists in Afghanistan.

“Japanese troops carrying weapons will only create tension,” he said in a Monday interview with The Japan Times.

Nakamura, 55, has worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan for more than 17 years.

He said people in the two countries have been pro-Japan because Japanese volunteer workers have focused on providing aid without taking sides in previous regional conflicts.

Nakamura worries that fueling anti-Japanese sentiment there will make it difficult for his group, Peshawar-kai, to provide support. Peshawar-kai is a nongovernmental organization based in Fukuoka.

“There are so many things Japan can do in the pro-Japan nations” that Western nations cannot, he said.

Because the Japanese government does not have enough information about what is happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is trying to offer support that is not necessary in those countries, such as sending blankets, Nakamura said.

“What they need right this minute is water and food so that they can get through the winter.”

Nakamura suggested Japan provide financial aid to the two nations, or to NGOs working there, so they can distribute goods that are necessary to those threatened with starvation from the drought in the area the past several years.

Of the more than 1 million people in Kabul, 30 percent to 40 percent are suffering from chronic starvation and about 10 percent are dying, according to Peshawar-kai.

Nakamura said Afghans in rural areas are moving to big cities such as Kabul because there is not enough food in their hometowns, reckoning that those crossing the border into Pakistan are migrant workers — not refugees.

“The biggest and most urgent task is to provide food to evacuees in urban cities before winter comes,” he said.

Nakamura’s organization is expanding its activities in Afghanistan by offering free meals and distributing food in Kabul until international organizations can begin activities expected early next year.

Founded in 1983 to support Nakamura’s activities, Peshawar-kai has set up 11 emergency clinics and is building more than 650 wells and underground waterways in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Nakamura was angered by Sunday’s retaliatory attacks by U.S. and British forces.

“Retaliation is not the answer to terrorism,” Nakamura said. “The important thing is to improve their standard of living by providing food, water and medical support so they will not harbor hostility.”