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Nakasone tries to have East meet East by touring Asian nations.

By Geoffrey MurraySpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / May 10, 1984



Tokyo

Japanese foreign policy is moving in important new directions: toward strengthening the country's roots as an Asian power as well as forging closer ties with the third world and the nonaligned movement.

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These were the most important results of last week's tour of India and Pakistan by Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, the first Japanese leader to visit the two countries in 23 years.

Since taking office in November 1982, Mr. Nakasone has visited virtually every Asian country to become personally acquainted with their leaders, learning firsthand of their views on regional and world issues and gaining knowledge of their problems, Foreign Ministry officials point out.

With the completion of his trip to India and Pakistan, the officials say, Nakasone has boosted his standing as an international statesman and helped promote Japan's position as a spokesman for Asia at next month's seven-nation conference of industrialized democracies in London.

Nakasone's trip to Southwest Asia may have been heavier on symbolism and lighter on specific commitments, especially in the trade and economic areas, than his hosts would have liked, but government sources here still hailed the diplomatic tour as a ''magnificent success.''

They felt the premier had laid down important new guidelines in expanding Japan's role in the world community.

There is some pleasure at the prospect of better relations with India, hindered in the past by serious differences on major diplomatic issues.

India has never, for example, directly condemned the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and is the only Asian state outside Indochina to recognize the Vietnam-backed Heng Samrin government in Kampuchea. Japan, in contrast, strongly demands the withdrawal of all Soviet troops in Afghanistan and Vietnamese forces from Kampuchea.

In Pakistan, Nakasone received a hearty welcome and responded by pledging more economic assistance to help cope with an influx of Afghan refugees. He also offered strong support for Pakistan's diplomatic program to settle the problem in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan.

While referring to the Soviet Union as an ''aggressor'' during his talks with Pakistani leaders, Nakasone avoided such references during his stay in India, where his reception was somewhat cooler.

Nevertheless, he was accorded the rare honor of addressing the Indian Parliament. He took the opportunity to enunciate support for a number of issues dear to the heart of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who currently chairs the conference of nonaligned nations.

Nakasone told the Parliament: ''I am hoping to embark upon a new direction in Japan's foreign policy to further strengthen our dialogue and cooperation with (the 101-nation movement).''

In conversations with Mrs. Gandhi, he is reported to have emphasized that Japan's strong postwar links with the United States and the rest of the Western alliance need not stand in the way of closer ties with nonaligned nations, particularly India.

The Japanese prime minister gave assurances that he would work hard to breathe new life into the deadlocked ''North-South'' dialogue for liberalized trade and soft loans for poor countries. Japan should make more effective use of its economic strength to promote friendly relations with the developing world, he stressed.

Officials said that Nakasone's close personal ties with Western leaders will help to get the views of India and other leading Asian nations a fair hearing in major international forums. For this reason, they were satisfied that the premier had gone a long way toward breaking down Indian reserve toward Japan.

The Japanese for years have been accused by their Asian neighbors of having their eyes too firmly fixed on the West. A succession of Japanese premiers in the past 10 years has gone a long way toward correcting that feeling in Southeast Asia, extending this into Southwest Asia. Nevertheless, there was some disappointment in both India and Pakistan that the Nakasone trip did not yield more in financial terms.

Japanese officials, however, say such help should not have been expected, but that did not mean this aspect was being ignored.

Within the Tokyo government, moves were already underway to meet Indian and Pakistani desires for expanded, more balanced trade with Japan and greater levels of Japanese investment, financial, and technical assistance, the officials stressed.