Following the Naga Peace Talks

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Murmurs forecasting the resumption of the peace talks between the Government of India and the Nagas rebel group – the NSCN (IM) which had undergone a long period of deferral are doing rounds. In the period preceding the Nagaland Assembly elections, Union home minister SK Shinde had then promised that the Nagas political issue will be settled within March, 2013, the time the election process was expected to be completed. It is very hard to ignore the coincidence that fresh reassurances for renewal of talks are being aired with the Lok Sabha elections just round the corner. The convening of the talks, reportedly in mid-February, may well turn out to be a Spring gift for the Nagas populace or a covert bid to drum up political support by the UPA government ahead of the polls. Whatever, the resumption of talks should be welcomed by one and all as it had been grounded for too long and there is no logic for undermining the necessity of its activation any further.

On the other hand, another important development in the pursuance of a political settlement for the Nagas was the fixing of the seventh round of tripartite talks between the UNC, the Centre and the Manipur government at Senapati on February 7, 2014. The UNC, which is the apex body of several Nagas civil organisations, had been mounting enormous pressures on both the Centre and the state government for finalisation of the date for the past few months, through strategic interruptions of activities at Central project sites, strikes in Nagas populated areas and blocking national highways. The UNC’s agitations have been detrimental to the overall growth of the state but it served right as far as finding success in its mission is concerned.   

The stakeholders at the dialogues representing the Nagas cannot avoid the vague feeling that there will be many roadblocks along the road leading to the talk table after the unfavourable comments from officials of the union home ministry and tactics of equivocation employed by the Union government. Moreover, the tempo of the talks has suffered as a new interlocutor had to be appointed after RS Pandey abruptly relinquished his job. Moreover, deputy chief minister Gaikhangam (on behalf of the state government) had spoke out against the aspiration of the UNC stating that any compromise on the interest of the state will not be tolerated. The ministry of home affairs had also admitted in the recent past that there is no concrete solution in sight to the Nagas issue. The talks will be going ahead amidst the widening differences.

At the same time, the UNC had vowed to explore options of securing an Alternate Arrangement in case the tripartite talks fail. The state and Union governments have to understand the reality and work with sincerity to erase doubts that it is backtracking on their commitments. However, it is too early for any party to hope that the dialogue will lead straight to a direct solution. The path of negotiation will not be short and straight. But, all parties concerned must exercise patience so that a solution that is agreeable to all parties is achieved.

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