In spite of the NSCN-IM general secretary Th Muivah's case for a federal relation between India and the State of Nagaland and non-insistence on independence, any prospect for a quick solution to the Naga imbroglio appears to be bleak until and unless the rebel leader modifies his position on the integration of the Naga inhabited areas.
In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Th Muivah on 29 April 2005 argued for a special federal relation with India. Even though the contours of such a relation was not elaborated in detail, Muivah was careful enough to suggest that Nagas would neither accept the Indian Constitution nor would they come to the rescue of India in the eventuality of the latter facing an external aggression. At the same time, he appeared to suggest that such a solution would be acceptable only after Government of India effects an alteration of the territories in the Northeast, ensuring the amalgamation of the Naga-inhabited areas into a single unit.
Although the position laid bare by the NSCN-IM leader appears to have rekindled some hope among people who had given up on the protracted negotiation process, the proposal still touches upon extremely sensitive issues afflicting not only the present State of Nagaland and its neighbours, but also the rest of the country. For the government, dealing with such seemingly integrationist aspirations might be easier than that of cessation. However, a resolution to the conflict would never be easy when emotions for integration within Nagaland and the fear of dismemberment among the neighbouring States remain high.
Th Muivah appeared dismissive on the opposition of the neighbouring States like Manipur and Assam to any dismemberment of their territory. Muivah said, "We don't claim any land belonging to others but the land Nagas have been living in from time immemorial, of course they must have that. "On the questions of the uprising that took place in Manipur in June 2001 against the decision of the extending the territory of the ceasefire, Muivah was equally dismissive of the popular sentiments in that State. He said, "Well that is by the [Meiteis], and backed by the Indian government. So we are not responsible for that. You know for the Nagas, naturally we will have to claim the land belonging to us."
Two questions appear to seek answer. One, whether India is ready to abandon its position of a Nation-state and is willing enough to be a State of Nations? Secondly, whether any alteration of territory of States is justified on the ground of historical claims? As per provisions of the Indian Constitution, Nagaland can be given a special status and areas from the neighbouring States can be merged with the present State of Nagaland in recognition of the 'uniqueness of the Nagas'. However, such a decision is laced with the problem of not only affecting the existing States but also setting off a chain reaction for fulfilling a number of similar demands within the northeastern region and beyond. In addition, it will also put a seal of approval on the proposition that unless people belonging to a similar tribe live within a single State, their emotional and material needs cannot be taken care of.
Is this thus far and no further for the NSCN-IM? It does not appear to be so, in spite of Muivah's assertion in Dimapur that the Nagas are ready to wait for another 50 years for a solution to the problem. On 11 May, Muivah told the Nagas in Dimapur airport, "Be prepared for the worst and don't be so presumptuous," thus indicating that the talks might not fulfill all their demands. He is also on record saying that he understands the problem of the Indian government and thus could not expect a 100 percent fulfillment from them. The fact remains that unless he rethinks on the integration aspect and has the capability and willingness to convince his constituency about the difficulties of achieving such an objective, the problem would continue to defy solution.
One needs to realise that the recent proposal has put the onus on the government to structure a response amidst a scenario of hope. Pushing the sovereignty demand to the back burner and putting the integration aspect as the sole stumbling block is a tactical masterstroke from the rebel leader, who himself faces criticism from the rival outfits like the NSCN-K and the NNC of compromising on the Naga dream for independence. Incidents of dissension have started within his own organisation. Recently, A Z Jami, who served as the 'kilonser' (minister) in the outfit's Ministry of Information and Publicity joined the rival Khaplang faction (NSCN-K) and charged the IM faction of abandoning the dream for sovereignty. Given these inherent challenges the NSCN-IM faces within its homeland, the Union government's interests would be better served by allowing the situation to drift with the hope of further concessions from the outfit.