Ball is in Indian government's court: Muivah



Dimapur (Nagaland): Veteran Naga secessionist leader Thuingaleng Muivah on Thursday said that it is now up to the Indian government to work a way out to end the six-decade-long Naga separatist movement.

"The ball is now in the court of the Indian government to decide on the Indo-Naga issue and we are hopeful that something honourable will be achieved," Muivah, the general secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), told journalists in this Nagaland town.

Muivah, along with his outfit's chairman Isak Chishi Swu arrived in Dimapur, the commercial hub of Nagaland, from New Delhi for wide consultations with various civil society groups, including Naga intellectuals on the progress of their peace talks with the Indian government.

"There is a progress in the peace talks and the Indian government is also more serious on the issue," he said.

Asked to comment on Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde's statement saying that the Naga political issue would be settled by March next year, Muivah said: "I cannot say the time but let us wait and see and one cannot 'comprehensively' say anything now about the solution."

The NSCN-IM has been fighting for an independent Nagaland for over six decades.

It however later demanded a "Greater Nagaland" by slicing off parts of three neighbouring states - Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh - to unite 1.2 million Nagas.

Shinde had told journalists that he has been talking to Manipur and Arunchal Pradesh Chief Ministers Okram Ibobi Singh and Nabam Tuki respectively for a consensus on steps relating to the welfare of tribal Nagas residing in both the states.

Admitting that Shinde had sought his assistance to put to an end to Naga separatist movement, the Manipur chief minister said that he was not in a position to oblige, since the exact points of agreement between the NSCN-IM and the Indian government is not known to his government.

New Delhi and the NSCN-IM entered into a ceasefire in August 1997.

The two have held more than 50 rounds of peace talks to end one of South Asia's longest-running insurgencies that has killed 25,000 people since 1947.

There have been reports that the NSCN-IM had decided to accept the Indian constitution and drop the demand for a Greater Nagaland.

New Delhi's main interlocutor RS Pandey, a former petroleum and natural gas secretary, did not comment on the news report but maintained that the peace process remained on track.

"The peace process is on the right direction. I have held several meetings with them (NSCN-IM) but at the moment things are yet to concretise," Pandey said.

During earlier talks, the NSCN-IM had proposed "a special federal arrangement" to enable the Nagas self-governance, but the negotiations ended inconclusively.

The NSCN-IM wants a special federal relationship with India, with a separate Naga constitution, and would like the guerrillas to jointly guard the international borders alongside Indian security forces.

IANS