Former rebel and former chief minister of India’s Mizoram, who is on a visit to Thailand has urged peacemakers on both government and rebel camps in Burma to exercise infinite patience.
“You sometimes will find it necessary to outpatient your counterparts,” he told his hosts at the Chiangmai based Pyidaungsu Institute (PI) for Peace and Dialogue on Tuesday, 20 January.
Zoramthanga, 71, who was chief minister of India’s 23rd state, 1998-2008, said the peace process with New Delhi had lasted 15 years, 1971-1986, 5 of which were spent in clandestine negotiations. “Which also included 9 months in Indian jail,” he smilingly added.
One major factor that had expedited the process was the fact that India was already a federal democracy, if not in name. “We didn’t need to demand that it became one,” he said.
Mizoram, formerly part of Assam, became a full-fledged state by virtue of a constitutional amendment in 1986 following successful negotiations between New Delhi and the Mizo National Front (MNF), of which Zoramthanga has been a leading member.
Another significant fact is that India’s armed resistance movements in the 7 states of its northeast have never formed grand alliances like those in Burma, that have boasted the National Democratic Front (NDF) in 1976, Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC) in 2001 and currently the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) since 2011.
Zoramthanga was accompanied by two assistants and No Than Kap, Chin affairs minister for Sagaing. Chins and Mizos are ethnic cousins.
Chin State is bigger than Mizoram, 36,000 sq.km to 21,000 sq.km, but less than half the population of the latter, 1million.
Regarding Mizoram relations with Chin National Front (CNF), he said. “I have made quite clear to them (I hope) that we are with them in peace but not in war.”
He added that, on the other hand, 7 Kuki groups in Manipur had also asked for assistance. “I had advised them if they are trying to negotiate with the Indian government separately, there is nothing it (Indian government) can do for you. They have to form a single negotiation body to speak for all.”