The long awaited round of peace talks between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) gets underway at Amsterdam in a few hours time from now. Though much delayed for whatever reasons, it is hoped that the long interval since the last round of talks would have given enough time to the Indian negotiators to prepare a more visible and concrete looking response to the charter of demands put forward by the NSCN (IM). There appears to be something more definite in the air this time round from New Delhi’s negotiators. Everything looks to have been well timed to coincide with the latest round of talks and it is a good sign to finally see the Government of India saying something new and different on the eve of the talks.
In another marked difference from the previous pre-talk jitters, this time it has been the turn of Oscar Fernandes, Delhi’s points-man for the Naga talks, to pronounce the (now customary) media byte. Similar pre-talk bytes on earlier occasions would appear to suggest that it carries a message of its own and more often than not sets the mood for the real thing. That Fernandes pre-talk interview to the media has something new to offer can only be taken as a positive signal that New Delhi may finally respond to some of the substantive issues ‘point by point’. As in the year 2002 when the Government of India officially recognized the ‘Unique history and situation of the Nagas’ at Amsterdam, for the Naga people they may finally get something out of Amsterdam again.
Coming back to what Fernandes had to say on the eve of talks, about how New Delhi is preparing to resolve the Naga problem as a “package” and stating that it would respond point by point to the NSCN (IM) charter of demands, there is no doubt that this latest position of the Government is a welcome change and an improvement over its earlier dogged refusal to respond to the substantive issues. Having said that the Government of India should also take into account the fact that the charter of demands put up by the NSCN (IM) is as reasonable, realistic and rational as it gets and there should be no room to suggest that the demands are over the limit or beyond India’s generosity.
As negotiators from both sides enter into another round of talks at Amsterdam, the Government of India should be reminded once again that having traveled the peace road thus far, and having drawn in the Naga people as co-owners and partners to this journey, an added responsibility now rests on India’s shoulder to see to it that this cause for peace and friendship does not go in vain. It also goes without saying that the basic premise on which the process itself began—which was to find an honorable-negotiated-peaceful-political -settlement to the over 50 year long problem—be attended to without anymore delay. That the peace process has seen the personal involvement of at least four Indian Prime Ministers should also be taken as a political mandate of the people in India.