Bangkok, Oct. 21: Thuingaleng Muivah, the general secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), today declared his intention to visit India for a longish period of time for intensive negotiations if invited to do so.
'If the Prime Minister invites us, as some reports have indicated, then we can come to India. But we won't come for a mere courtesy call or anything less than serious negotiations,' he declared on the eve of formal talks with Indian negotiators in the Thai capital.
Addressing the apprehension that India was only stringing the NSCN along to extend the cease-fire without moving the peace process forward, Muivah said: 'India should not take comfort in the illusion that the extension of the ceasefire is an end in itself. It is a means to an end.'
He cautioned those who might be tempted to think otherwise saying, 'Do not drive the Nagas away once again. We may not then come back to the path of peace for a long time. Both sides should give up the illusion of tiring each other out.'
He nonetheless seemed cautiously upbeat about the peace process. 'We have come to the conclusion that we must have a close and mutually beneficial relationship with India respecting each other's concerns and compulsions. We hope this stand is reciprocated by New Delhi,' he said.
The Naga leader clarified that if questions were asked about Nagas giving up their demand for sovereignty or laying down arms, his answer would be a definite 'No'. However, he added: 'These questions will not lead to a solution. But we are hopeful of a solution provided both sides recognise the history of the troubled relationship.'
He felt that only by addressing the real nature of the issue could a close relationship be forged between the Nagas and India.
He hoped that India would be as rational and serious about the talks as the Nagas. What Muivah means by a 'rational and serious' approach is not only the commitment to a negotiated settlement but also a recognition that only a political solution would be permanent. A mere change in administrative arrangements may not be considered either rational or a reflection of India's seriousness.
An acceptable approach, he seemed to believe, was reflected in the National Democratic Alliance government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee recognising the 'uniqueness of Naga history and situation' ' implying that the solution would also have to be unique.
Praising the BJP-led government for this approach, Muivah said: 'This is the right approach to come to an honourable understanding to end half a century of armed conflict.'
He recalled his meeting with Vajpayee when he and NSCN (I-M) chairman Isak Chisi Swu had visited New Delhi in January 2003. 'We were sufficiently emboldened by Vajpayee's approach to tell him ' 'If India would respect the reality of the Nagas, the Nagas would respect the reality of India even ten times more. Mr. Prime Minister, you would come to know one day that the Nagas would be your most trusted neighbours'.'
He recalled that on hearing this, the then national security adviser Brajesh Mishra had got up and told them -- 'We will never forget your words'.
Muivah said: 'We believe that the Congress-led government of Manmohan Singh and even Sonia Gandhi appreciate this stand. The time has come. The opportunity is here staring us in the face. Why wait for tomorrow' We should start addressing it in an intensive manner.'
The Naga leader declared that the NSCN would do whatever was necessary to seek peace 'because we have faith in ourselves and the Naga people. We hope that India will be equally serious in negotiating with us.'
The Naga leader summed up his perspective on tomorrow's talks, saying: 'We are approaching the talks in a very positive frame of mind and with full faith in the sincerity of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's desire for peace. We hope the Indian negotiators have as much faith in their Prime Minister as we do.'