Plus & Minus

The decision of the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland government to send a delegation to New Delhi to press upon the Government of India (GOI) to expedite the peace process is a step in the right direction that needs to be welcomed. In a similar vein, the decision of the Nagaland Congress to opt out of the all party delegation is a disappointment more so at a time when there is an urgent need to create better understanding among the tribal hohos as also the underground groups. By politicizing the issue at this juncture, the Congress cannot hope to get anything out of it; rather the party appears to be moving away from the basic issues that it had been recently criticizing the DAN government about. In more ways than one the Congress by being overly cautious is losing whatever gains it had garnered over the last year or so. By this sheer folly on the part of the Congress, its very credibility has now come into question. The DAN government on its part may finally get the stick the beat the Congress party whenever the latter ups the ante on the peace process.

As far as the DAN delegation goes, it appears to have been a worthwhile exercise to meet all the important people who matter as far as resolving the Naga issue goes. Besides meeting the usual people—Union Minister for Statistics and Programme Implementations Oscar Fernandes, Centre’s Interlocutor K. Padmanabaiah, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister Shivraj Patil—what is of interest to note is the meeting with Union Law and Justice Minister Hansraj Bharadwaj. This may have been the first time that the Law Ministry has figured in relation to the Naga peace parleys. Whatever significance if any there is; only time will tell.

With the interaction held so far, the Centre appears to be sincere and assuring. But the DAN delegation will be first to accept the fact that such assurances are meaningless unless the GOI is able to transform the nature of the peace process itself from the stage of signing ceasefire extensions to finally sitting down into taking concrete decisions on substantive issues at the talks table. The proposed meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh therefore assumes enormous significance for the DAN delegation. What the Prime Minister says will no doubt be keenly awaited in the backdrop of the all important Amsterdam talks getting underway from May 18. 

As far as the manner in which the peace process has been handled by both the NPF-led DAN Government and the Opposition Congress, there is much that is left to be desired. It appears that it is no longer viable for the two political fronts to play a bi-partisan role in relation to the question of peace and unity. As long as political posturing continues, not much should be expected from the on-off public overtures being made by the political parties. At the end, it has to be said that politicians in Nagaland will agree to disagree just for the sake of sticking to their pretentious convictions. When this happens, it is highly unlikely that a common agenda can be put together. And as long as vital concerns such as peace process or reconciliation is made into a game of political one-upmanship there will be less and less chance of making headway on these issues.