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Heartening development

In a heartening development, a leading national daily has reported that peace talks between the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) are on the verge of arriving at a “final solution”. The report indicates that progress has been attributed to a “paradigm shift” in New Delhi’s approach less than a week after the NSCN (IM) and the Indian government held their last round of talks. 

In a press release issued by the NSCN (IM), which has donned the role of the “Government of the People’s Republic of Nagalim”, it was said that peace talks underwent a “drastic positive change” since Narendra Modi took office. However, it also claimed that the NSCN and the Naga people “highly appreciate the Government of India for recognising the sovereign rights of the Nagas through the framework agreement”. 

Although the larger public is not privy to the details of this “final solution”, it is apparent that claims of “recognising the sovereign rights of the Nagas” could prove problematic for other democratic stakeholders in the region. To the uninitiated, in August 2015 the Government of India signed a historic peace accord with the NSCN (IM). Under the accord, the Government of India recognised the unique history, culture and position of the Nagas and their sentiments and aspirations. As a reciprocal move, the NSCN said that it understood and appreciated the Indian political system and governance. In other words, while the Indian government agreed to recognise the "uniqueness" of the Nagas, the Naga leadership also accepted the Indian Constitution.

A few days after the historic framework agreement was signed, NSCN (IM) General Secretary Th Muivah rejected “rumours” that the outfit was backtracking on integration and sovereignty, saying they were the “core issues” and there could be “no solution whatsoever” without fulfilling the two issues. It is the question of integration, which may prove to be a major stumbling block in the negotiation process. The NSCN (IM)’s major demand has been for the creation of a “Greater Nagalim”, comprising of “all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas”, along with the state of Nagaland. The state of “Greater Nagalim” will include districts of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Manipur, as also a large tract of Myanmar. With only a framework agreement in place, the Government of India will have to walk a tight-rope in dealing with both the separatist group and various state governments. 

Muivah’s contentious statements do assume a serious proportion in Manipur, where four districts have been demanded to be included in the proposed Greater Nagalim. Voices of protest have been heard from various state governments in the region. They claim that nobody should transgress the territorial integrity of their respective states.

Meanwhile, the Indian government has maintained its line of attack against the splinter Naga insurgent group called the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang faction). Reports indicate that the Indian army personnel crossed the border into Myanmar last week to take out camps set up by the insurgent group. The NSCN (K), which had signed a peace agreement with the Centre in March 2001, withdrew unilaterally from the ceasefire agreement last year, after it was alleged that the area along Indo-Myanmar border under their control was fast turning out to be "safe-zone" for terrorists of various militant factions in the Northeast. 

Moreover, it was involved in attacks against Indian Army convoys. The group has also threatened to kill elected representatives who were trying to gather support for the peace deal being struck between the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) and the Centre. Certain sections have argued that without bringing the NSCN (K) to the negotiating table, the Government of India is in danger of repeating the mistake of signing a pact with one powerful group, while ignoring the other. They argue that such an approach would only exacerbate the violence attributed these insurgencies, citing the 2003 peace accord with the Bodo Liberation Tiger Force, which has failed to prevent further insurgencies in Assam.

In other words, they believe that NSCN (K) needs to be brought to the negotiating table too. But the NSCN (IM) has managed to integrate three other factions of the Naga movement, namely the Unification faction, the Kitovi-Konyak faction and the Reformation faction. This has strengthened the constituency for talks and allowed the NSCN (IM) to become representative of Naga interests. If the NSCN (K) cannot give up the gun and terrorise the common people of the region, the Indian government is well within its right to maintain its line of hot pursuit.    
 
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