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Christmas at home for Naga duo

Bangkok, Oct. 22: Instead of being in a foreign land, the general secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), Thuingaleng Muivah, and its chairman Isak Chisi Swu will get to spend Christmas this year among their own people in Nagaland.

The duo is expected to visit India in the last week of November for a 'continuing and sustained' dialogue. They will stay on for four to five months.

Besides meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, .K. Advani and Left leaders among others, the NSCN (I-M) leaders have also expressed a desire to hold wide-ranging consultations with the Naga people. They are expected to spend a considerable amount of time in Nagaland.

Chief Indian negotiator K. Padmanabhaiah, coming out of the talks with the Naga leaders, said: 'I told them that there is an all-round desire to see that the peace talks lead to a satisfactory and peaceful solution at the earliest. To ensure continuing and sustained talks, on behalf of the government, I invited them to visit India. And they have accepted the invitation.'

He said the government did not want the Naga talks to be held in a halting manner ' the frequency is about once in three months at present. 'This way continuity is lost and we do not want that.'

Padmanabhaiah handed over the letter of invitation to Muivah this evening.

Muivah, who seemed satisfied, commented: 'We will honour the invitation from the Government of India because it shows its positive attitude. If nothing intervenes, I and chairman Swu will be there in the last week of November and we will stay there as long as necessary.'

After a week in Delhi, the NSCN leaders will go to Nagaland, where, according to Muivah, they will seek the opinion of everyone 'irrespective of their past' and also meet the leaders of 'other communities'. This not only signifies the desire of the NSCN to consult Nagas across the political spectrum but also other tribes and communities.

Did the 'other communities' include the Meiteis also' Muivah replied: 'Yes, including the Meiteis, the Assamese and others so that we can understand each other better.'

After wide-ranging consultations in the Northeast, Muivah and Swu will return to Delhi. 'We will then start a structured, intensive and time-bound dialogue to reach a mutually satisfactory settlement,' the NSCN leader said.

On the priorities of the intensive dialogue, Muivah said: 'All the political issues must be settled first ' the relationship between the Nagas and India, the defence of Nagalim and India, preserving the Naga national identity and the integration of the Naga areas.'

Muivah hoped that the relationship between the Nagas and India would be 'non-threatening and beneficial to both and would bring them very close.'

The agreement reached, he said, would have to be incorporated 'both in the Indian Constitution and that of the Nagas', indicating a re-negotiated relationship moving from separateness to closeness.

On defence, the NSCN leader commented that it was but natural for India to be concerned about its security, 'particularly because of threats arising from the countries abutting Nagaland'. However, while arguing that 'the Nagas will be responsible for their own security', he insisted that 'the Nagas will never be a menace to India's security'.

Muivah claimed that 'the Nagas will manage their own affairs in such a way that their identity ' political, economic, social and cultural ' is not threatened'.

But what did he mean by negotiating 'issues relating to external affairs' with New Delhi' 'Whatever be the ultimate nature of our relationship wherever Naga interests are affected, we will represent ourselves. But this would never be to the detriment of Indian interests. Otherwise, closeness will have no meaning,' Muivah replied.

That the path to peace was not going to be easy was evident when Muivah insisted 'no solution can be reached without recognition of the legitimacy of the Naga aspiration to live together as one'. At the same time, however, he added, 'the process for achieving this should be explored jointly'.

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