It seems all is not well with the Indo-Naga peace process, especially what appears to be the hard line position adopted by the Government of India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the last few years, post the signing of the Framework Agreement on August 3, 2015.
Compared to the openness of addressing the Naga issue early on after taking office in 2014, the Modi government appears to have become inflexible to take forward the Framework Agreement amidst the sway by the powerful security mandarins and right wing elements.
The NSCN (IM), signatory to the August 3 agreement, has been openly critical about the Government of India’s intent. In its latest statement, the NSCN (IM) has cautioned against a “hard line position” by the GoI and that it must not deviate from “the honourbale out of the box approach”, which is based on the mutual respect and recognition of the two entities.
The strong statement from the NSCN (IM) comes against the backdrop of the Government of India’s Interlocutor RN Ravi saying that the Framework Agreement was within the Constitution of India.
In an event held in Pune recently, Deputy National Security Advisor of India R N Ravi (IPS) was quoted as stating that the government would not compromise with militants in the name of conditional or unconditional talks.
Reported in Times of Assam, an online news portal, Ravi also took a tough stand that there will be no more new talks with militant outfits of North-Eastern states and that those groups have to either keep fighting or surrender.
He said this during the General Lachit Barphukan Memorial Lecture organized jointly by Asomi, an organization of the Assamese diaspora in Pune and SEIL (Students’ Experience in Interstate Living).
The Deputy NSA spoke about issues concerning critical aspects of conflict resolution, development and security aspects of North East India.
Criticizing the previous governments for not taking right steps for resolving the insurgency issues the Deputy National Security Adviser stated that creating temporary peace through lateral talks with militant outfits was not a long-term solution but more of a liability.
Ravi stated that the current government was clear in its policy, – there will be no more talks with any more militant outfit and that the message was clear to those groups whether to fight or surrender.
Talking about the Naga framework agreement signed between Government of India and NSCN (IM), Ravi stated that the framework was within the constitution of India and the final settlement would be done considering all groups and neighboring states, not just the Naga group alone.
The NSCN (IM) was quick to respond these statements coming from the Interlocutor and asserted that the Framework Agreement signed with the government of India and declared on August 3, 2015 was fundamentally based on the unique history of the Naga people and coexistence through shared sovereignty between the two entities.
In a release, the Ministry of Information and Publicity of the outfit said Ravi’s reported statement gives an impression as though the Indo-Naga political dialogue is seeking solution within the framework of the Indian Constitution or Union of India.
It said the Indo-Naga peace talks have made considerable progress after years of deliberation following the ceasefire declaration in July 1997 with the government of India officially acknowledging and recognising the “unique history and situations”.
“These are the core principles for bringing about final and lasting solution acceptable to both the parties,” the NSCN (IM) said.
The NSCN (IM) further said the government of India should have the courage and the boldness at this juncture for her larger security interest. The NSCN (IM) also warned that “military solution” will surely lead to a fresh epidemic conflict that will cost dearly the lives of both.
It also said the political negotiation must not be reduced to seeking political gain of any parties. “It amounts to betrayal of the basic principles of the political negotiation and of the 3rdAugust Framework Agreement, 2015,” the release stated.
The NSCN (IM) said deviating from the honourable “out of the box” approach towards a hard line position is clearly a deviation from the framework agreement, which is based on the mutual respect and recognition of the two entities as mentioned.
Stating that the Nagas have accepted the honourable way for the concerned parties, the outfit, however, accused the government of India of “obviously” treading the path of ‘Machiavellianism’.
“It will be a conscious and deliberate betrayal of the government of India’s position to seek solution without precondition at the highest political level, outside India in a third country and based on the officially recognized unique history and situation of the Nagas,” the release stated.
Interlocutor Ravi has in the past openly spoken about how the British used to depute graduates from universities to study individual villages, ethnicities, etc and these officials focused on the uniqueness and differences of the different groups and tribes, rather than focusing on the similarities.
According to Ravi, this was done with good documentation and was the root of the rather complex ethnic diversity of North-East, where every group claimed difference and unique status.
The former IPS officer has been wary of advocating the idea of ‘homeland’ or unique identity.
Meanwhile long time Emissary to the NSCN (IM) Collective Leadership VS Atem had recently said in public that Nagas must understand that the Indian government’s policy is, by and large, to let the vast Indian interests prevail over Nagas unique legitimate right and added even the current negotiation has been facing unwanted elements of the India state indiscriminately.
“One such anti-Naga operation is being of late mentored by the RSS elements trying to imagine a Hindu nation state. Their ‘Bharatiya philosophy’ contemplates that there cannot be two ‘Bharats’ with India. It commits to strengthen Hindu national government and views the outcome of a possible Naga homeland as threatening the RSS Hindu dream,” VS Atem had said.