Peace talks, shared sovereignty & integration of contiguous areas

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Though it is still quite blurry, it appears that the political dialogue which has been going on between the Government of India and NSCN-IM has finally started taking a concrete shape.

Other than NSCN-IM, six other Naga armed opposition groups attended the latest round of political dialogue held at Chumukedima, Nagaland and it was the first time the political dialogue was held on the soil of Nagaland.

It was way back in 1997 when NSCN-IM came to the negotiating table and started political dialogue with New Delhi.

Since then, around 80 rounds of talks have been held, a few of them at Amsterdam, Bangkok and most of them at New Delhi.

As per a news report carried by the Hindustan Times, the Naga outfits have scaled down their demand from a sovereign State to greater autonomy for Naga people and integration of Naga inhabited areas under Greater Nagalim.

But a statement issued by NSCN-IM on May 9 this year said that the Nagas, as of now, have agreed to co-exist with India under shared sovereignty.

There were also reports about the Naga rebel outfit insisting on using a separate flag and separate passport.

It is not yet clear how far these demands were/can be incorporated in the framework agreement signed on August 3, 2015 which NSCN-IM General Secretary and the principal negotiator said would the basis for a final solution to the Naga issue.

Whereas Thuingaleng Muivah claimed that sovereignty and Naga integration are very much on the agenda of the peace talk, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh repeatedly assured all the neighbouring States of Nagaland viz; Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur that their territorial integrity would not be affected.

When the two negotiators are speaking two different languages, all observers are bound to be confused.

This confusion only multiplies the anxiety of the three neighbouring States. There is no meeting point between the demand for Naga integration and keeping the territorial integrity of the neighbouring States intact.

The term ‘shared sovereignty’ is also not well defined as yet. Is it about a sovereign State within a sovereign country, and if yes, how would their bilateral relations be?

Or is it about sharing the sovereignty of Indian people and Naga people between New Delhi and Hebron?

This sounds rather awkward. Yet, it is not the question of sovereignty or shared sovereignty which has been literally keeping the people of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh on tenterhooks.

It is the question of integration of Naga inhabited areas which is making the people of the three neighbouring States, particularly Manipur edgy.

No doubt, the people of Nagaland have huge stakes in the ongoing political dialogue.

The stakes are equally high for the people of Manipur for NSCN-IM has been insisting on integration of Naga inhabited areas.

As demonstrated in June 2001, this is one area which the Government of must tread with utmost tactfulness.

Acceding to the demand for sovereignty or shared sovereignty is up to the wisdom of New Delhi and very few would object to granting greater autonomy to Nagaland but distortion of the existing States’ boundaries to carve out Greater Nagalim would be disastrous for the whole North East region and it would have serious repercussions and ramifications to the very idea of India as a whole.

For that matter, no community settles in a single State or region.

It is another case if the community is a microscopic one.

Integration of all the areas inhabited by a particular community notwithstanding the fact that the areas settled by them belong to different countries/States would be rather outrageous.

As time goes by, the demand for integration of Naga inhabited areas tends toward irredentism.

There are many irredentist movements across the world and what is central in many irredentist movements is territory and not population.

In these cases the expansionist component prevails over the affinity component.

Before sealing the final agreement, it would be wise for New Delhi to juxtapose the demand for Naga integration and the call for restoration of Manipur’s pre-merger status.

New Delhi must not overlook the fact that Manipur is a very ancient kingdom, much older than the Indian Union and the present State of Nagaland.

Source: The Sangai Express

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