The government of India is determined to “honourably conclude” the Naga peace talks which have now reached the final stage, according to a statement issued by the office of the Centre’s chief interlocutor and Nagaland Governor RN Ravi after a consultative meeting with Naga civil society groups on Friday.
“A mutually agreed draft comprehensive settlement, including all the substantive issues and competencies, is ready for inking the final agreement,” it stated.
“Respecting the Naga people’s wishes, the Government of India is determined to conclude the Peace Process without delay. Endless negotiation under the shadow of guns is not acceptable. The Government of India expects all negotiating parties to heed the will of the people, and facilitate conclusion of the Naga Peace Process within the stipulated time.”
The Centre had signed two agreements — one with the NSCN(I-M) in August 2015 and another with seven other armed Naga outfits under the banner of the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) in November 2017.
Historic win or blunder?
The POSSIBLE inking of the agreement without the consent of the most influential group, the NSCN(I-M), may defeat some of its purposes. There was violence when the Centre tried something similar with the Shillong Accord of 1975, when the Naga armed movement was divided into factions, leading to further conflict. The interlocutor’s statement reflects the government’s impatience for a solution to the Naga question, but a hasty exit may prove all efforts made by the government so far worthless.
Ravi had in August mentioned a three-month deadline for the completion of talks. The statement comes at a time when the NSCN(I-M), the largest and most influential Naga group, maintains its demand for a separate Naga flag and constitution but the government of India has not agreed to it. The NNPGs are reportedly willing to sign it without the two demands being met at the moment.
“Unfortunately at this auspicious juncture, the NSCN(I-M) has adopted a procrastinating attitude to delay the settlement raising the contentious symbolic issues of separate Naga national flag and constitution on which they are fully aware of the Government of India’s position. They have mischievously dragged in the Framework Agreement and began imputing imaginary contents to it,” Ravi’s statement said.
However, the NSCN(I-M) in a statement on Thursday said, “The Government of India and her agencies on the other hand are at work sleeplessly to exploit our vulnerabilities to pull away many Naga individuals or groups with monetary baits and other highly rated economic packages… selected few civil society groups are going extra vocal, putting pressure upon the stakeholders to sign off the agreement within the time limit set by the Prime Minister of India notwithstanding whatever is to be lost.”
Among those who attended Friday’s meeting with Ravi were top leaders of all the 14 Naga tribes, the minority non-Naga tribes, the Nagaland Tribes Council (NTC), church leaders and village headmen from Nagaland. “Political maturity and wisdom of the Naga leaders who expressed their overwhelming support in favour of a settlement without any further delay is deeply appreciated,” Ravi’s statement said.
Secretary of the the NTC, Theja Therieh, told The Indian Express, “The meeting was overwhelmingly positive. We should go ahead with whatever is on the table within the stipulated period of time. Any contentious issue can be kept alive, open for negotiations in the future. But we need to wrap up and bring the talk to conclusion…”