Muivah talks of a `special federal relationship’ with India
|Naga leader on progress of talks: “Slowly, slowly but not on big issues”|
NEW DELHI: The general secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) has said the Nagas “can come as close as possible but it is not possible for the Nagas to come within the Indian Union or within the framework of the Indian Constitution”.
Speaking out thus for the first time since a dialogue on the Naga issue between the representatives of the Naga movement and New Delhi resumed last December, Thuingaleng Muivah told BBC World: “Nagaland was never a part of India either by conquest by India or by consent of the Nagas. This is very clear.”
On the state-of-play at the end of 41 rounds of dialogue, which started in 1997 when the NSCN (I-M), the biggest outfit fighting for Naga independence, declared a ceasefire, he said, evidently sticking to the hard line: “We can come as close as possible but it’s not possible for the Nagas to come within the Indian Union or within the framework of the Indian Constitution. Why? Because it amounts to dismissing the whole history of the Nagas and the Nagas cannot do that… Nagaland was never a part of India either by conquest by India or by consent of the Nagas. This is very clear. This is the unique history and so according to this uniqueness a solution will have to be worked out.”
On sovereignty, which, he said, belongs “to the Naga people and to the Naga people alone”, he spoke about “a special federal relationship” with India but not within India: “Sovereignty of the Naga people belongs to the Naga people and to the Naga people alone. There cannot be otherwise. Nagas have a right to decide their future, to determine their fate also. So long as that is there adjustments can be made… So long as the national identity of the Nagas is recognised and honoured that [adjustment] is possible… When we say a special federal relationship it has to be on the terms of the agreement that can be arrived at… It should be a federation of India and Nagalim [Greater Nagaland]. Within the Indian Constitution is not possible.”
Mr. Muivah spoke of what this “special federal relationship” could amount to. Asked if New Delhi would have control over defence, external affairs, communication and currency, he replied: “In some aspect you are right… Yes, you are right but we have not [as yet] settled those kind of questions… It is in the process of being worked out. It may be a little bit too early on my part to make pronouncements on that.”
Subsequently, Mr. Muivah spelt out details of the defence relationship his proposed Naga state wishes to have with India. “You know when we talk about defence we have to say that Nagaland must be defended jointly in the event of external threat. That is possible. Why? Because if Nagaland is in danger naturally the security of India would also be threatened. And we appreciate that.”
Asked by Karan Thapar, the interviewer, if a joint defence agreement would “apply the other way round” and whether Nagaland would come to India’s defence if India were under threat, Mr. Muivah said: “That is not the case. Supposing there is a war or confrontation between India and other countries Nagas should not be under the obligation to join forces with India. Joint defence [is] only of Nagaland.”
If the Indian leadership agreed to make all of this possible within the ambit of the Constitution, would he be prepared to accept the Constitution? His answer was an emphatic `No’. He explained that he could not trust future generations of politicians not to amend the Constitution.
Mr. Muivah said that with regard to his second demand for the integration of all Naga areas outside the present boundaries of Nagaland with Nagaland what he was asking for is “recognition of the legitimacy of the people’s aspirations for Naga integration and a reasonable time frame for its implementation.” In answer to specific questions, Mr. Muivah twice confirmed that what he was asking for was an in-principle agreement recognising Naga aspirations for integration and thereafter was willing to grant the Indian Government reasonable time to implement it. He said that, “if Naga areas in Manipur are denied unification there could be no solution.”
Asked if he had a deadline in mind or if the talks with New Delhi could go on indefinitely Mr. Muivah replied: “It is too early to talk about it.” Asked if this meant that he was prepared to give the Indian Government more time, he said: “Yes, but we should not be too presumptuous. Things can go wrong anytime.” However, Mr. Muivah did say that progress was being made: “Slowly, slowly but not on big issues.”
The interview is to be broadcast at 10 p.m. on Friday in the Hard Talk India programme.