UNPO Interview with Secretary General Marino Busdachin Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization by Frans Welman Naga International Support Center (on videotape) 7 September 2007
FW: Could you explain the objectives of UNPO in relations to what the United Nations covering regarding the Covenants article 1 concerning the right to self determination for all Peoples?
MB: Okay, UNPO has been founded 15 years ago in order to raise the voice of the oppressed Peoples and Nations and the Unrepresented. Mostly to subsidize on an international level issues that are not covered by the United Nations Instead of having one chapter in the United Nations regarding self determination the United Nations never put into force the right of Peoples to for their own best interests.
FW: Is this because of themselves, although they ratified that Covenant and that article because the countries have no interest in the……
MB: They not only have no interests, they are totally against the right to self determination.
FW: Is that not an anachronism then? They ratified it, yet they are against it!
MB It is not the first example in the history where a constitution….. I can say for example a constitution written by Bucharin and adopted by Stalin during the most dark times under Stalin it was just a piece of paper. Unfortunately for the UN they are part of the Magna Carta of the UN and they are still just words on paper. The beginning of the activity is to defend the right of the nation on their sovereignty and obviously there is no chance for anyone in any state in any part of the world to exercise the right to self determination. When a state or an association of states is counterposing the right of their sovereignty… I can mention an example, there is a committee of states, twenty members of the UN which are evaluating awaiting admission of non-governmental organizations. Many non-governmental organizations have not been admitted as NGO on the ECOSOC of the UN because of the reason of the accusation by the member state to try and disrupt the sovereignty of a state, which obviously has nothing to do on the activities on humanitarian, or human rights or educational activity of NGO’s. This is the practice. Differently it seems to me that it is correct for peoples, nations, minorities around the world calling on the UN with respect to the principle of the Magna Carta of the United Nations and the principles of the constitutions of many states, but the reality is pretty bitter and different and today never like today the possibility to exercise the right to self determination has been so largely denied. After 9/11 you can simply say it does not exist anymore this possibility UNPO is always acting in representation of instances of its own members but it is not always recommending to have strategy and tactics that will consent to acting of the old and just request but to enlarge to widen the perspective, because if not the risk is that simply calling for the right to self determination is something amazing, something unrealistic. It is something which does not leave you with any possibility to dialogue, to discuss this with a member. We recommend a member always to be patient and reach tools in order to promote their just rights. But I should say, the times are really not favorable.
FW: Considering the situation of patience the Naga Peoples are in, also a member of UNPO, in what way can the UNPO encourage them to have that patience and to enable them to come to some sort of settlement which is conducive to both parties?
MB: I would like to recall something that has been said by the Dalai Lama regarding the Tibetans who are kindly hosting
FW: The founders of UNPO
MB: One of the founders yes of the UNPO and the question is, in a world which is becoming quickly and aggressively more interdependent
FW: Aggressively? MB: Aggressively because, I don’t want to become now about the global economy and so on, but it means that there is aggression in front of local populations in front of local economies in front of local interest. On this situation the question of independence is fading away, it is turned down as an element of discussion by the international community
FW: Are you referring to the European Community where independent states give up some rights for the greater good of all?
MB: Yes the EU is a very slow process. In order to be patient and comparing it to the Naga negotiations, the first treaty signed by the first five, six states forming the European Union was in 1954 and even today in the year 2007 the European Union is sharing something but they are totally independent and many a time counterpose many important things like in policies of defense foreign affairs, economy and so on. This is a very slow process, but the same process is happening very slowly in Latin America, with America Sur. There is some leading going on in South East Asia with Asean. It seems the world is going to interdependency. That means that I think that in not a very long term it will go from a single state that will determine the situation of autonomy, federalism, independence to a regional question.
FW: Are you not too much talking about the economy then? Because in this region of Europe there are quite a few peoples expressing themselves differently from each other. You are an Italian, I am a Dutchman. We may think alike on certain issues, but we are form different cultures.
MB: Yeah but today I am feeling much more European than Italian. Perhaps 30 years ago I felt myself more Italian that European
FW: Is that not possible because there is peace rather than conflict, conflict is what is spurring this on? MB: No Europe has nothing to teach anything to anyone. There is nothing in that, Europe was the field of the most cruel war, the first and the second just one century and was the field of the most criminal dictatorship and so on. Europe was the field of Stalinism and Nazism. That means the last century was one of the most harsh and cruel time in humanity. But what is happening today would be seen as a middle path, a half way this association of states. Usually when we are talking at UNPO what is possible today in a very difficult situation then we are referring sometimes to Edgar Moran the father of Europe; it’s when you have no chance to solve one problem in a small context, the only chance you have is to enlarge the content. I think the question of the negations of the Nagas and India is not only a micro-regional question. It represents a point of interest in the international community obviously it is not simple to reach the requirements on the international level. I think 6 years or 10 years of negotiations could seem like a long time, but you see what is happening in some peaceful process, sometimes it takes 26 years. Obviously looking for a peaceful solutions requires more time than having an agreement of cease fire and so on, But, I am always referring to India as one of the growing and upcoming economies, a growing and powerful political role, not only in Asia, but on the world level. We should expect that in five six years that India is one of the protagonist effective four in power like USA, European Union, China, Russia and sitting at the table where major question are decided so that it will even requires more responsibility, a different kind of political responsibility to India. I always say that that will help to improve the situation that the brackets are referring to as an internal situation question of India. I am confident that time is working for a more rich economical growth and for a more effective democracy in India as well as increasing the chance for the Nagas to following the path step by step that will lead to a peaceful settlement, an agreement in which the respect for the identity, autonomy and the self determination of Nagaland and the Naga people will be complemented as a constitutional element in India by law. It is difficult, but it could be a final objective a final target. It seems to me that proceeding step by step will help the partners to identify better themselves to become confident. I think the years passed were not years spent for nothing, but it will require more time, all the other possibilities are very well known and I don’t think that today, going back on a more harsh confrontation will help the peoples of Nagaland, for after so many years of difficult life, fighting and so on, the present war will even be more harsh without possible success. The world has changed a lot the lats 15 years and right or wrong and like any of our members have to face the new world and have to consider that what could be a problem of one of our members means that usually there are six or seven sharing the same problem but in totally different areas and in totally different situations. This is one of the points which makes the UNPO a tool, sometimes a powerful tool for our members in reaching an international dimension and giving them the chance to be the protagonists in the different parts of the world, not only in their own region. Today there are many problems oppressed peoples are facing, unrepresented peoples who have less rights than the others and are much closer to each other and are sharing a lot of these problems. This could become a powerful tool in order to reach their targets; usually it is democracy, it is the right to self determination. And, even the right to self determination should be considered in the most broad sense, Step by step I would like to refer to Kurds in Iraq; they are enjoying a more or less effective autonomy from 1991/92. They are part of a state but their level of autonomy is pretty close to independence. They never dropped their quest for independence but they are used to talking very plainly and simply, it is not for today. Perhaps it will be useful tomorrow, but today we are working on what we have, which means this kind of autonomy. It depends obviously on what the agreement will be, the point of the agreement that will be reached in the negotiations, but not necessarily it is a step back.
FW: I have noticed that many ordinary Nagas feel encouraged by being part of the UNPO as it let’s say represents the international community so they see it as that they are not alo0ne in their quest. On the other hand considering that it takes long this cease fire without, for them, any tangible results and at the same time India, through its forces and other ways of dealing with the situation like the divide and rule continues, either by spreading money or by propping up adversaries so the ground situation for the Nagas is deteriorating. On the one hand their way of life is enhanced, because from too much pressure because they are still under occupation but on the other hand they feel many forces work against them, psychological warfare for instance, so asking them to have a long breath how can you prop their feelings up?
MB: First to open the borders so to have free circulation of people’s ideas, capitals. That could be an intermediate point in the negotiations. I don’t know if it has been raised, but Nagaland is not a land that you can go visiting, for reasons of security and so on. It seems to me that in a democratic country rules regarding security can be changed. It is a pretty non violent request that Nagaland can be reachable for anyone in the world. That is the first step in my opinion.
FW: So take it out of Isolation
MB: And the second is that it could be a process with a third part mediator. I am referring to the example. It took so many years, regarding Northern Ireland. I am referring to the senator Mitchell Commission, in order to process and setting negotiations based on decommissioning
FW: So third party mediation?
MB:Yeah, but not necessarily it should be a state. Usually a third commission in the case of Senator Mitchell was a production of a major Ngo, a think tank foundation and then there was the support on the issue by president Clinton, but the idea started in a different circle. I am referring to George Soros I am referring to other foundations, I am referring to all other Non-Governmental Organizations. The entire process started in the eighties and then in order to get some result in the beginning of the year 2009? But, I think to open the world Nagaland, getting free circulation of people, ideas, capitals, having a process starting with decommissioning of weapons of armies and so on, having an international monitoring of
FW: Decommissioning of weapons?
MB: Decommissioning on the level of non-violence because the security is a concept that is including everything but decommissioning level on the confrontation of a situation, even in a state of cease fire of negotiations there are some accidents, mostly on the harsh confrontations of some micro situation. Having a long path on decommissioning, step by step, situation by situation, the level of the use of violence or any acts in the field could be another step. I am referring to those two issues because they are not part I think of the core negotiations, they are not part of the negotiations regarding the half independence status, full autonomy, the mutual federation of the asymmetric federation or any other possibility. It can be seen as good will, waiting for the time and sometimes that is necessary…
FW: This goes for both parties?
MB: Yeah waiting for the time for sometimes that time is needed for the situation to be ripe to get a mutually satisfactory result. This part can help the people, with the Nagas to be confident and can even give the Government of India something that can improve the situation. In my opinion those issues like many others that have nothing to do with the main issue of the negotiations between India and Nagaland could help to create the atmosphere, the mutual respect and an improved loyalty upon keeping the word given during the negotiations. That can set a better background…….
FW: But doesn’t that mean that for instance the Indian Government should abolish the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which is a tremendous tool for them to …..
MB: This could be a decision that should be taken by the Indian Parliament and executed by the Indian Government, but a process, in my opinion, of negotiating some particular steps which are not part of the package regarding the self determination, or autonomy or independence could open the way. I am referring to the context which is too strict, it does not give you any way out, we are trying to get some partial results which can improve the situation. That in turn can lead to a general improvement of the background of the negotiations. In my opinion any facilitator who can improve the level of the negotiations between the Nagas and the Indian Government will be helpful. Time is required because we need to be confident of changes in India, international and internal as even the Naga People are changing. We are in a world where changes are happening very quickly, but in my opinion there will be be a good option of setting a larger a broader negotiation including that would be a negotiation per installment of different issues, because there is always the risk is that, if the negotiations come to a dead end, there is nothing more to say and that means we mean to …
FW: That point has been reached some times
MB: Evidently, and if they stopped it is a part of the negotiations. I think that there will be, in my opinion, more argument that could be discussed between the two parties and in my opinion there good be room for a facilitator but only who dedicates only on a particular issue, so that it will enlarge, broaden, the support that some facilitator could have by the international community, by some states, by an association of states without their involvement in a question that following the international law is seen by India as an internal question and by the Nagas as a fight for freedom and self determination. But everything of every, more facilitation, can be helped by the international community, by the non-governmental community, by single states. It will preserve direct involvement and it will lead to a general improvement, partial, minimal sometimes, but any steps going in the right direction of a peaceful setting we need to welcome.
FW: A critic would say it is all nice and well to talk from behind the desk and overseeing the situation you are quite right, on the other hand the dynamics in the country with the people concerned, let’s take for instanced the soldiers of the Naga Army. They do nothing all the time during cease fire, they have guns and they are not always that educated and see money floating around and they have no part in it. These are human beings that do things, so what I am trying to say is that even if you are full of goodwill it is not always possible for an organization to sit still and let things develop that go beyond your control.
MB: It would be a potentially dangerous question mostly for the Naga People, the Naga Civilians, the Naga leaders
FW:Naga civilians get in trouble with the Naga Army!
MB: What I suggest, hmmm what I suggest!, what is my idea is when an army spends a lot of time with nothing to do it……
FW: In peace time or relative peace time
MB:…should be converted into a civilian form or state. This process should be initiated in my opinion by the Nagas but must be facilitated by the Indian Government. When I told you that Nagaland needs to be open I meant that it will help for a military structure or a military activity to a civil government activity. That, in my opinion, is happening in all the situations in the world and it is always most difficult, but an army which is not active will run the risk of becoming more attentive to their own interest instead of the interest of the people….
FW: So crimes are committed and will lead to uprisings and irritations…..
MB:…..I don’t want to go into details but anyone knows many examples like that in the world. I think that the process to start to converting military cadres and forces into civilian is absolutely necessary and responsibly the Indian Government should open the way and facilitate this process. I told you that open the borders to ideas, people, circulation of money and capital it will help the Nagas even to start. That would be another point. I am not aware of negotiations usually having different stages like they have public stuff or no stuff, but this is another form of decommissioning, but it is necessary for India. If the chance to Nagaland to be visited by citizens from all the world and could go there must be confidence in the process of which the Indian Government is part. I think that obviously there could be a security progress it could be progress of opening the Naga borders and so on…….
FW: The people again, though they enjoy relative peace, tension is still felt so what you from here, from the Hague, on the international level say to encourage them to maintain composure so there will be a time eventually?
MB: What I have to say is first the question of education, the Nagas could invest all their possibilities to the highest possible education to its young people. Secondly to dedicate more time to the creation of a society in which a little enterprise and other forms of economical improvement will be accessible and to be more known to the International NGO community, by the press and so on.
FW: So they have to invest in becoming known so they exist for the world outside?
MB: In information, in education so that it will trust, confidence to the young people, as always the young people are the future of a country and so they have less bitter memories of the past and more freshness and hope for the future. That will help in order to have a positive approach, even knowing the fact that time required for a peaceful settlement can be longer than expected.
FW: But the process will gradually improve the situation?
MB: In my opinion there are evident changes and chances for India for the Nagas to get more chances in the future, because India is becoming a protagonist and one of the leading countries of the world. The Nagas can be seen in a macro regional Asia not in a micro and then everything changes. If you enlarge your map, you can see that what can be very important in a small map, it is really less important and less dramatic in a larger map. There are many problems in the area, there is Burma, there are many others, but even there a little step now in which it seems it could be, is not a short time process, but we should be confident that situation can change in Burma, that the situation can improve in South East Asia. And, even China is changing, not in the direction of becoming a democratic country for sure, but into something of a strange hybrid, but the changes in the protagonists in the region, will reflect, find some reflection on the situation regarding Nagaland and even on the negotiations between Nagaland and India. The world is becoming smaller in some way and perhaps what is happening in Nagaland will be a point of major interest on the table much more than today for sure.
FW: So to internationalize the case would be helpful for them
MB: Yes but we require a total improvement of the information on the situation. You need to get access if not it is difficult. You cannot internationalize a situation which is, not now, in which you cannot get access.
FW: Yes that is why I said it is not known and so it is the chicken and the egg
MB: Yes, that is not helping, to keep that situation under partial control
FW: It is also a policy of India not to open it up so it will not be known?
MB: I don’t know if the Government discussed the issue in parliament. You know we are in a moment in which generally in the world the question of the war on terrorism is on the top, sometimes even having disrespect of its own rules of many states, not talking only in Asia. I am talking in Europe, I am talking in the USA, I am talking in the United Kingdom, I am talking in Italy, in other countries. The major democracies issue should be more attentive with respect to the rights of citizens, with respect to the constitutions. I think that some paranoid approach on the question of terrorism could be too much and the cost and the bill paid by the populations and by the individual rights are too high in order of the results to achieve. But this is not a question regarding India Nagaland, it is more or less an analogy which is regarding the entire world. I think that citizens need to pay more attention to their government and the governments need to be much more attentive in respect of their own rules. That is a general question. It is not an Asian or South East Asian question
FW: That is quite a good one to end the interview with that the government should respect its own rules
MB: That is the general question. I told you always security is involved, the question of security and army present the major risk that there are parts unknown even to the government of the country that it happened too much frequently in western countries recently and I think that major democracies should carefully pay much more attention to such stuff generally.
FW: Any word for the Nagas to prop them up to wait out their time?
MB: I have already discussed but soon I hope to have a meeting, the usual one at the beginning of the season.
FW: I am talking now more on the ordinary people because the ordinary people will read this
MB: Always on the run and having meeting with governments and conferences the question of the Nagas is one of the top questions of UNPO. Sometimes it is difficult to explain who the Nagas are, there is very little knowledge and awareness of the task staff, that is not facilitating. I think that if there would be a chance that I would like to discuss in order to get a kind of European parliament presentation on the question of the Nagas, because that can involve many European political forces to suppose, considering something. UNPO did something similar with some question in the European parliament in the middle and at the end of the nineties, but considering some experiences that we had for other members that it is pretty positive to have this kind of conference and presentation. There is very little knowledge on such a situation and it is not facilitating to talk with such an argument. I think that can be done and we can improve the knowledge because information is always paving the way, better information means better chances for the people.
FW: So, may I take this as a suggestion to organize a conference on the Naga Peoples?
MB: I think that it is useful to have a kind of conference regarding the Nagas, the process of the negotiations, the situation of different aspects in some part of the world and that it will facilitate in the Nagas to realize even what is the general idea of being here, what are the suggestions. It will help them. It will help them to feel that they are part of a world that is larger than their region or is larger than India….
FW: ,,,,Larger than India..
MB: And it will consent even other people or members of parliament, others, to be more interested on the question of the Nagas. On the other side, India it will know obviously when there is more interest in the situation and there will be more interest in India in which the situation could be improving instead of deteriorating
FW: Mr. Busdachin thank you very much