The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Muivah ready for talks give-and-take

But what if the Sri Lanka-LTTE talks succeed' Would not the Sri Lankan Tamil model of devolution of powers become an example for others such as the Nagas or even the Kashmiris to learn from'

“If the LTTE thinks that their purpose is served in a particular way and they are satisfied with it, we have nothing to say. But that cannot be a model for us as our problem is very different,” the Naga leader insisted.

All the same, Muivah seemed very positive about the way the peace process with New Delhi was progressing. He said: “I can assure you that any stalemate or deadlock that we may come across will not be from our side.”

This is an unusually strong commitment from a man known for straight talking. It comes in the wake of what could have been a major setback to the peace process.

The NSCN (I-M) had accused the Indian side of floating a document purporting to be the outline of a settlement with them and talking to the press about the alleged changes in their negotiating posture. Both were considered grave breaches of faith by the Nagas as these moves could have jeopardised not only the peace talks but also the legitimacy of the leaders involved in the negotiations. Both sides, however, were able to tide over these controversies when they met in Bangkok on September 21 and 23.

“Anything that could have created confusion or led to problems had be thrashed out. And this time we did largely that. A lot of issues were clarified. And we are happy to join the Indian negotiators in exploring ways to resolve the bigger issues,” Muivah said.

When asked to be more specific about the progress in the negotiations, the Naga leader replied, “Sometimes this is not very easy for one to say…. The Joint Communiqué that was issued on July 11 in Amsterdam is a big step forward. I would in fact say that it represented a broad-based agreement because in it the Government of India recognised the unique history and situation of the Nagas. When we say unique history, its significance has to be noted because the Nagas were earlier not a part of India.”

Muivah said the recognition of this fact, even if it had taken more than five decades for India to do so, was a major step forward “and the Indian leadership deserves high praise for recognising that”.

The July 11 Joint Communiqué, which was reaffirmed in Bangkok this time, had also said that the Indian Prime Minister had invited the NSCN (I-M) leaders to New Delhi to continue the peace talks. Asked about progress in that direction, Muivah replied, “We are honoured by the invitation because we see it as a good gesture. But unfortunately the world is complicated and there are obstacles that need to be removed (before the visit).”

The removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Disturbed Areas Act from all the Naga areas, including those in some parts of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, and the lifting of the ban on the NSCN (I-M) would, according to Muivah, facilitate the visit. He said his understanding was that New Delhi was addressing these issues. As of now it seems that there would be another round of talks in a third country before the NSCN (I-M) leaders come to Delhi for a short visit.

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