Beyond Ceasefire & Talks

As the next round of peace talks slated to take place at Bangkok for December 16 draws closer, a sense of apprehension has set in among the people who are now questioning the very logic of continuing with the ceasefire agreement signed eight years ago between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India. While there had been much expectation and even excitement in the hope that the peace process would bring about a political settlement, the Naga people are now losing patience over the inability of New Delhi to come even half way to the demands put forth by the NSCN (IM). Basing on thea unique history and rights of the Naga people as rightly acknowledged by two Prime Ministers, the political leadership in India should, without losing anymore time, embark on a serious exercise to settle once and for all the five decades old Naga political issue. For this, the Congress led UPA government would have to take the political initiative both inside and outside of the Parliament.

New Delhi would do well to understand that the present ceasefire cannot exist in a vacuum and unless it injects some political momentum into the process they should not expect the other entity to merely sit and watch. It was somewhat disappointing that despite the plan of government negotiators to involve the political leadership of the northeastern states to discuss and get opinions on the ‘proposal’ put forward by the NSCN (IM) leadership, not much headway was made. This only confirms the notion that New Delhi is still not prepared or bold enough to approach the demand for the integration of contiguous Naga inhabited areas.

Having missed this opportunity, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his government must do something extraordinary to convince the NSCN (IM) that they are still committed to resolving the Naga issue. Before they sit down with the NSCN (IM) top brass for the next round of talks, the team of negotiators led by Union minister Oscar Fernandes should prepare an action oriented proposal of their own so that the political impasse that is threatening the very process is removed. Eight years and countless rounds of talk should be enough for both parties. Now is the time to put talk into deed or at least it is now the expectation that there should be less talk and more accomplishment from the present peace process.

For the Government of India, there should be no more excuses for it would have to put in more value added time by making the Naga issue a high priority agenda which at the present is not commensurate with the high level engagement taking place between the two sides nor is it proportionate to the amount of time and years invested in the process.   

It would also be the contractual obligation for both sides not to reduce the peace process into a zero sum game rationale where no one wins. A collision course can be avoided only by giving some form of mutual accommodation. The choices for both the NSCN (IM) and Government of India are apparent. A full range of possible outcome or prospects must be explored and more importantly both the two entities should talk to each other while considering a diplomatic and peaceful resolution rather than a ‘costly outcome’ where no one wins. However, New Delhi, ought to show much more sincerity then it is putting in right now if the eight year old peace process has to have any chance of surviving.