Bold Moves

Bringing together political leaders into a common forum is not always an easy task given the intractable conflict and the near zero level communication that usually define their (dis)association. One of the first steps in ameliorating this discord would be to re-establish channels of communication between parties who otherwise would find it difficult to meet or acknowledge any contact and in improving the quality of communication and consequently of understanding across conflict lines.  The recent news report about the meeting of the Manipur based Naga National Party (NNP) with leaders of the NSCN (K) in Mon therefore augurs well for the Naga people. 

This bold initiative taken by the NNP members, who are mostly drawn from the southern Naga areas, to undertake its peace mission to the Konyak people under Mon district is appreciated and is a step in the right direction. Full marks therefore to the NNP members for their courage of conviction to reach out to its fellow Naga citizenry despite the hurdles of geography and political divide. Likewise, the response of the people in Mon under the aegis of the Konyak Union and the open hand of friendship and hospitality extended to the visiting team is extremely encouraging and such type of people to people interaction has to be promoted in order to help create better understanding and amity. 

For the Nagas today, finding peace in these tumultuous times of fratricidal conflict is a difficult and sometimes impossible task. As hard as it may be, the continuation of killings and political violence will only perpetuate hatreds and stimulate vengefulness, further fueling the continuation of the conflict. It is time for those who are concerned; to help restore peaceful coexistence among the different factions. The first step for this to happen would be to make attempts in reducing tensions and create an environment in which the causes of conflict can be addressed and peace can be achieved through a dialogue process. 

For this, what is required is an environment that is conducive for discussion to take place, and to give the factions the opportunity to develop contacts, exchange views, explore differences, and search for common ground on sensitive issues. The first step is also usually the most difficult and the objective of such an exercise is not to find a solution, but to lessen or remove the poison and distrust in the atmosphere with the hope that it would facilitate other options. A process of dialogue must begin soon.

It is well accepted that respecting one another is the first positive step in building a relationship and relationships are central to conflict transformation. One need not have to like a person or understand his or her viewpoint to accord them respect. Respect comes with the belief that a person or group can have beliefs contradictory to theirs but still honoring them. 

Empowering the political process by encouraging people centered initiatives like the one undertaken by the NNP or the recent truce signed between the NSCNs under the aegis of the Sumi Hoho has to be given priority. This will help in developing and stabilizing mutually beneficial interaction while realistically taking full measure of the obvious political complexities involved. There is no doubt that people to people contact can help in building up a large constituency for peace which in turn can act as a catalyst in the political process. People to people diplomacy should therefore be given the importance that it deserves which in turn can be used to strengthen the political process from the bottom.