Guwahati, Dec. 9: The Naga peace process is back on track after a period of uncertainty with Delhi convincing the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was “misquoted” on the subject of integration of Naga-inhabited areas of the Northeast.
A source in the militant group said from Bangkok that the “collective leadership” was convinced with Delhi’s explanation, conveyed through its interlocutor in the peace talks, K. Padmanabhaiah.
The latest round of talks between the former bureaucrat and the NSCN (I-M) leadership began in the Thai capital on Saturday and concluded today.
The peace process nearly came unstuck when the NSCN (I-M) refused to resume the dialogue, citing irreconcilable differences with the Centre.
“It is pointless continuing the discussions without Delhi clarifying its stand on Naga integration,” it said.
In a letter to Padmanabhaiah on November 27, NSCN (I-M) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah said the Prime Minister’s statement on integration of Naga-inhabited areas was “highly questionable and unacceptable”.
Vajpayee had been quoted as saying that a political consensus was necessary on the issue for it to be resolved. “The insistence on consensus of other people to determine the future of the Nagas is absolutely irrelevant. Rather, it is an attempt at shifting responsibility to switch the ongoing peace process off the track,” Muivah wrote.
The NSCN (I-M) source said the talks in Bangkok were, however, held in a congenial atmosphere. He said the two sides discussed “substantive issues”, including the integration of contiguous Naga-inhabited areas. “It is not the will of India or of any other, but the will of the Naga people,” he said.
Quoting from the joint statement issued by Delhi and the NSCN (I-M) at the conclusion of the talks, the source said: “Both parties are pleased with the progress made on important issues.”
He disclosed that both sides agreed to meet in New Delhi “in future” to maintain the momentum of the peace process.
“They explained their point of view and we gave our view,” he said.
Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio declined to comment on the statement attributed to Vajpayee, but said the entire community supported the demand for integration of Naga-inhabited areas. He told the media in Guwahati that NGOs of Nagaland had initiated discussions on the topic with ethnic groups and the states opposed to the proposal.
Rio was here for a programme of the Northeast People’s Forum, of which he is the chairperson. He said he was confident that the ongoing peace process would lead to a solution to the “Naga political problem”.