'Greater Nagaland,' the key issue

NEW DELHI JAN. 25. After three days of talks between the Centre and the leadership of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) in the Capital, it is clear that the most contentious and sensitive issue related to the insurgent group's demand for a "Greater Nagaland'' — unification of all Naga-dominated areas.

As the talks, originally scheduled for two days, were extended to the third day, it was understood that the NSCN leaders wanted their concern to be addressed which stemmed from the reported assurance of the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, to the all-party team led by the Manipur Chief Minister, O. Ibobi Singh, that the neighbouring State's territorial integrity would be protected.

Though the talks appeared to have hit a roadblock on `territorial adjustments', the Centre and the NSCN agreed to continue peace talks aimed at finding a lasting and peaceful solution to the Naga problem.

The visit of the two NSCN leaders — Isak Chisi Swu and Thuiangaleng Muivah — to India was certainly reflective of the importance and seriousness with which the Centre handled the process of negotiations.

Well-informed North-East watchers say though it was not stated how the Centre proposed to reconcile itself to the demand of integration of all Naga-inhabited areas, it was crucial that the two sides recognised the need to continue the dialogue.

Sources also said that NSCN leaders recognised the Government's stand of building a consensus with the neighbouring States, taking them into confidence through extensive discussions and try and hammer out an acceptable solution.

Seen in this light, the NSCN (I-M) statement, issued a day after Mr. Swu and Mr. Muivah left the country, appears to be accommodative in nature, recognising the "legitimate rights and aspirations'' of all neighbouring people and also offering to hold talks with them to resolve the differences.

"Let us end tensions that have sometimes existed between us and let us live as good neighbours who respect each other's rights and aspirations. We are convinced that there should be no differences between us that cannot be resolved through dialogue and understanding,'' the NSCN statement said.