|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
The Rediff Interview/Zoramthanga
January 23, 2003
For the past week Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga has been camping in New Delhi to help government interlocutor K Padmanabaiah iron out problems that have arisen during negotiations with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim.
NSCN leaders Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah are in New Delhi to hold crucial talks with the Government of India to find a peaceful solution to the Naga problem. Himself, a former insurgent of the Mizo National Front, Zoramthanga is hopeful the issue will be sorted out soon.
In an exclusive interview with Chief Correspondent Onkar Singh, the chief minister expressed hope for the successful conclusion of the talks.
What is going on as far as talks between the Government of India and NSCN (I-M) group is concerned?
The fact that Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah, leaders of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim, are here in India for talks is a very positive development. Another positive development is the fact that the two NSCN leaders are travelling on Indian passports. They have met a number of important political leaders, cutting across party lines, including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani. This is a positive development. I am sure the two sides would be able to find an amicable, acceptable solution.
While the Nagas want a greater Nagaland, the Manipur chief minister, who met you in this connection, says this is not acceptable to his state.
All the issues right from the smallest to the biggest would be discussed by the two sides during the negotiations. I am sure the Government of India and NSCN leadership would be able to find ways and means to overcome these problems.
Are you trying to facilitate the talks?
I have told Prime Minister Vajpayee they could utilise my services. They wanted to appoint me political negotiator but I refused because I wanted to be full time chief minister of my state. Whenever the talks begin a number of issues need to be sorted out.
When we began our talks with the Government of India, the Mizo National Front had consulted our people from different angles. We had consulted non-governmental organisations, church leaders, various political parties, constitutional and administrative experts. It was after these consultations that we chalked out different political demands and put them before the government.
The Naga leaders have just come in. They did not have the opportunity to consult their people. They will take time. As far as I am concerned the talks have gone on smoothly so far .
L K Advani has said the talks will take off after the assembly election in Nagaland next month.
I fully agree with him because it is not good to have talks when the elections are going on in Nagaland. This is the time when things could be triggered off this way or that way. There are many other underground outfits operating in Nagaland. It may be good to have talks during the election period but you have to watch your steps because it could go the other way as well. That is why Advaniji might have said the talks would pick up only after the election in Nagaland.
Do you think the Nagas will climb down from their demand for an independent Nagaland and talk to the Government of India within the framework of the Indian Constitution?
I cannot say what will be discussed and what will not be discussed. All these things -- whether it is independence, territory, big or small Nagaland -- these are to be discussed at the negotiating table, and not with the media or through the media.
Have they indicated to you that they are willing to scale down their demands?
No. Neither did I ask them about their stand on these issues nor did they tell me. I do not feel the time has come for me to ask about their political demands because they have yet to chalk out their demands in consultation with their people. They will reveal their cards only at the negotiating table.
Manipur Chief Minister Ibobi Singh has refused to withdraw cases against Muivah. Don't you think this would create problems?
I did not discuss this matter with the Manipur chief minister because these are very minor matters. The AK-47 and rocket launchers in the jungles cannot have legal sanction. When peace talks are concluded and an agreement signed, then all these things would be taken care of. This is not a big problem, my dear friend. This happened in our case also. With the conclusion of peace talks and signing of the agreement between Rajiv Gandhi and Laldenga all those who were underground were pardoned and their weapons taken back by the army.
Are you hopeful a solution to the Naga problem would be found soon?
I am hopeful a solution would be found but I cannot give you any timeframe for that. It could take long or it could be concluded in a few weeks. The whole thing depends upon political developments. What made it easy for us to sign the accord was that we had one leader -- Laldenga. In the case of the Nagas, we have splinter groups. But in politics everything is possible.
The Rediff Interviews