Bangkok, April 9: Leaders of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) have offered to visit India once again for sustained negotiations to settle the Naga issue if there is progress in the peace talks over the next couple of rounds.
Thuingaleng Muivah, general secretary of the NSCN (I-M), made this bold offer even as he prepared to leave the Thai capital, suggesting that the Naga issue must be settled “once and for all”. Muivah is expected to leave for Amsterdam on April 20.
The Naga leader felt that the peace talks had become mere ceasefire extension exercises. “The Indian government starts focusing on the Naga issue only when the ceasefire is about to expire. This only shows a lack of sincerity and an inability to take positive political steps. If it means business then India has to do better than this. Or else, the whole process will come undone,” he warned.
His experience of meeting Indian leaders last year in New Delhi, according to Muivah, had led him to conclude that they were not decisive. “I think while they have understood the rights of the Nagas, they want to subject them to the lowest common denominator. This is not realistic. One has to take the correct decision and then generate a consensus for it and not work the other way around.”
Such an approach, Muivah felt, could easily become “a pretext to avoid addressing the real issues”.
The Naga leader said: “Good intentions are not enough. One should have the courage and the political will to break hard ground.”
The Nagas had proved their ability to do this, he claimed. “But we are sorry to say that the Indian government seems too fragile to face any reaction from any quarter.”
The Naga leader recognised that the lack of progress might lead one to conclude that the peace process was virtually over. However, he said: “Those who feel the peace process is over must ask themselves who is responsible. We came to the negotiating table with utmost sincerity and continue to be sincere. It is India which remains inert.”
Doesn’t the NSCN (I-M) feel trapped, as neither the peace process has moved forward, nor is it in a position to go back underground'
“It is easy to be taken in by this kind of reading. So long as the Nagas value their rights, they are bound to defend it. Whether I am there or not, a thousand Muivahs will come up to defend the Naga cause,” the Naga leader declared.
Comparing the Naga peace process today to the situation which prevailed a decade ago, when peace overtures first began, Muivah said: “We have tried our best to come forward. But surprisingly, the policies being adopted towards us by India can only drive us farther away.”
In this context, he questioned the wisdom of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement about the integration of Naga areas in an election speech in Assam.
“When the integration issue has not been discussed in any substantive manner in the negotiations, where is the need to make gratuitous statements in public' Who is he trying to please' Is peace with the Nagas more important than the Assam elections'” Muivah asked.
He insisted that the Nagas must have “what is theirs”. They were not asking for anything that belonged to others, he claimed.
Accusing the Prime Minister of “pleasing our neighbours at our cost”, Muivah said: “This is not the road to peace. In fact, it can potentially drive us farther away from peace than we were 10 years ago.”
However, the Naga leader said: “If democracy and consensus have become the bywords for inaction in India, then we think that the Indian Prime Minister is badly advised. One must prove one’s statesmanship beyond the immediate. That requires political farsightedness and we believe Manmohan Singh is capable of it.”