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Ending stalemate in Naga peace talks

A single solution for “one people” sums up the resolutions adopted at a consultative meeting on Naga political issue convened by the Nagaland government in Kohima.

Naga peace talks

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  17 Oct 2020 1:10 AM GMT

A single solution for "one people" sums up the resolutions adopted at a consultative meeting on Naga political issue convened by the Nagaland governmentin Kohima. The message is loud and clear for the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) and the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), a conglomerate of seven other rebel groups- that they must come on a single platform to ensure the single solution comes early. The resolutions adopted by the meeting have also sounded a caution against toying with the unrealistic idea of signing the final agreement without bringing all factions on board. It has urged the negotiating groups to "come together under a spirit of oneness, mutual trust and understanding with sincerity and commitment towards achieving one solution for one people as early as possible." The consultative meeting has brightened up hopes for ending the uncertainty that has gripped the ongoing peace talks. The appeal for unity of NSCN(IM) and NNPG is timely as a "single solution" for the Naga political problem will remain elusive if Naga rebel groups continue parleys with New Delhi in two parallel directions.

The NSCN(IM) and the NNPG must respect and honour the wishes of the Naga civil society and respond to their appeal. The resolutions of the consultative meeting, however, remained silent on the contentious issues of a separate flag and separate constitution for the Nagas insisted by the NSCN(IM) for an "honourable solution." This silence is not going to be helpful in ending the stalemate in ongoing talks between the Government of India and NSCN(IM). The NSCN(IM), has ruled out any solution without the flag and the constitution while the NNPG is ready to sign the final agreement without these two issues forming part of the solution. New Delhi has ruled out a separate flag and separate constitution for the Nagas. The Government of India is aware that conceding to NSCN(IM)'s demand will open a Pandora's box which is unwarranted. Therefore, even if the appeal by the consultative meet works as an icebreaker between the NSCN(IM) and the NNPG, the dialogue between them will reach a dead end over the issues of separate flag and the constitution. The position of the Government of India, NSCN(IM) and NNPG on the issue is known to the Nagaland government as well as the civil society groups which took part in the consultative meeting. Lack of clarity on this contentious issue has made the appeal of the consultative meeting for "one solution for one people" ambiguous.Coming together of all Naga factions negotiating with the Government of India is necessary but not the sufficient condition to take the most critical step forward at this juncture.

Through one of the seven-point resolutions, the participants affirmed their commitment to continuously work towards a political settlement based on Naga historical and political rights to determine the future of Naga people on the unique history and position of the Nagas. There is no clarity in Government of India's recognition of "unique history of the Nagas" as to how the uniqueness is going to be reflected in the solution. The Government of India has indicated that the solution is not likely to disrupt the present geographical boundaries of the states in the Northeast region. The NSCN(IM) has already made public the Framework Agreement it had signed in 2015 with the Government of India which laid the foundation of working out the final agreement. It is the difference in interpretation of the Framework Agreement by the two sides that has pushed the ongoing negotiations to a dead end. A concrete resolution by the consultative meeting on the content of the Framework Agreement could have helped both the Government of India and the NSCN(IM) to understand how the Naga civil society look at it.

Naga peace talks cannot progress towards the final agreement without crossing the hurdles posed by the contentious issues. The Naga political problem has remained one of the most intractable conflicts and it is unfortunate that the talks have hit a new roadblock after 23 years of sustained negotiations. The initiative taken by the Nagaland government to facilitate consultations of the civil society groups on the Naga political issue is laudable as concrete and innovative solutions must be found to end the stalemate and sustain the pace talks. This, however, requires all stakeholders to stop beating around the bush and clarify their positions on the contentious issues without any ambiguity. The onus is also on the Government of India to sustain the negotiations. An early solution to the vexed Naga political problem is of paramount importance to establishing permanent peace and putting an end to proliferation of arms in the region. The response of the NSCN(IM) and the NNPG to the resolutions adopted by the consultative meeting will be keenly watched in the region and beyond.

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