Cause of the stalemate so far and the effect of the killings: Naga Talks

The killing of civilians in Mon district has shown a shadow on the already struggling peace talks between the Centre and NSCN(I-M). What has caused the stalemate so far, and what impact can the killings have?

Cause of the stalemate so far and the effect of the killings: Naga Talks

Over a dozen of civilians were killed in a mismanaged Indian Army operation in the district of Mon of Nagaland on Saturday is likely to influence an already tottering Naga peace process. The key group of Naga negotiating with the Centre, NSCN(I-M), has announced it a “black day” for all Naga people and called the incident “unprecedented in recent history”, whereas the Naga National Political Group (NNPG) has solely blamed the implementation which is continued of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958 for such incidents.

Also Read: Nagaland bans trade of dog meat after viral image of ‘dogs slaughtering’ surface

Status of the Naga talks

While several Naga groups state that the talks have ended and only better details are being worked out, the NSCN (I-M) has stated an accord can’t happen until the Centre accepts the demands of the Naga people for a separate constitution and flag. The Centre has stated it is in no place to fulfil these demands. The NSCN(I-M) has certainly not accepted any alternatives- such as a cultural flag in place of a national flag as well dealing with issues of a constitution after signing of the agreement- suggested by the Centre’s point-person, former Intelligence Bureau Special Director Akshay Mishra.

The NSCN (I-m) stated in a statement a month ago, “Ironically, the Government of India is still pretentiously acting stubborn as the crucial rounds of talks that focused on the Naga flag and the Constitution is driven to hang in balance. The stalemate created is unfortunate.”

Now the Centre which had announced in 2015 that the talks had ended with the signing of a FA (Framework Agreement), said by the sources, is not certain when a final deal could be achieved.

Effect of the killings on the talks

The killings have triggered the public, sources stated that it has the potential to revive the history of the Naga people vs India. “People in these parts quote operations of the 1950s and ’60s to articulate perceived atrocities by the Indian state. So, imagine what a fresh incident can do,” a senior Nagaland official stated.

The NNPG, which has 7 insurgent groups that have till now supported the peace talks process, revoking many of its demands that were earlier stated such as a separate flag, stated in a statement that the actions of the military have  “belittled the commitments made by the Indian Prime Minister and Home Minister”. It further stated, “The draconian laws in Nagaland and military atrocities over many decades have made Naga people very aware that they are not and will never be Indians.”

FA statement

About the dialogues that were held since the 1997 ceasefire agreement between the NSCN(I-M) and the Centre, it says, “The GoI-NSCN dialogue led to a better mutual understanding. While the GoI, an expression of the understanding recognised the unique history and position of the Nagas, the NSCN understood and appreciated the intricacies of the Indian system…

“Both sides… are cognizant of the universal principle that in a democracy sovereignty lies with the people. Accordingly, the government of India and the NSCN, respecting people’s wishes for sharing sovereign power as defined in the competencies, reached an agreement on the 3rd of August 2015 as an honourable solution. …It will provide for an enduring inclusive new relationship of peaceful co-existence of the two entities.”

The main problem with FA

Sources stated that the FA never clearly spell out how much potential gap the Centre was wanting to surrender or not surrender for Naga self-determination. They stated that phrases like “unique history and position”, “sovereignty lies with the people”, “sharing sovereign power”, and “peaceful coexistence of the two entities” was open to interpretation by both sides.

The NSCN(I-M) has certainly argued that instance to sharing sovereignty and coexistence as two entities solely mean that Nagaland shall remain a sovereign within India itself with its own constitution and even flag. While the Centre has never stated its interpretation, former Naga talks interlocutor stated the previous year that NSCN(I-M)’s interpretation was entirely “preposterous lies” and that the Centre has “never ever talked, much less negotiated” on territorial integrity and also the sovereignty of the country with anyone.

Last year NSCN(I-M) accused Ravi of “craftily” tweaking the FA by excluding the word “new” from “enduring inclusive new relationship”. It certainly made the FA public.

“The FA is so poorly drafted that it leaves the Centre with very little space to spell out what it can’t give. It reads like an agreement between two hostile nations where they keep the wordings so vague that no promise made or understanding reached appears final. Had there been no FA, probably, we would have had a deal by now,” a senior government official stated.

Sources state that the signing of the FA even established NSCN(I-M) as the actual group negotiating in the letter with the government, leaving other various Naga groups- which Ravi insisted to engage with later- lower in the hierarchy.

The reason for the drafting of such a FA

Government sources state the wording, no matter it’s poor, was certainly informed by the politics of 2005. “Flag and constitution were not such touchy issues as a state with precisely these rights (Jammu & Kashmir) existed then. It may be argued though that those drafting it should have pondered over the ruling party’s ideological position on Kashmir even then and advised the political top brass accordingly. Now, after the decisions of August 5, 2019, on Jammu and Kashmir, these issues have become non-negotiable,” another government official stated.

The road ahead

The Centre will have to relieve the public anger which is due to Saturday’s killings through a quick and impartial probe, which is followed by action on those who are responsible.

on Monday, Amit Shah who is the Home Minister announced in Parliament that a Special Investigation Team has been set up by the state government.

Only after the people are convinced by the government, despite the killings that took place, can the Centre certainly resume discussions, sources stated. “The pitch has been queered. Now the only solution is for the government to clearly declare what it cannot give and then ask NSCN(I-M) to negotiate on other issues,” a senior official from Nagaland stated.

Source – The Indian Express

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Cause of the stalemate so far and the effect of the killings: Naga Talks
The killing of civilians in Mon district has shown a shadow on the already struggling peace talks between the Centre and NSCN(I-M). What has caused the stalemate so far, and what impact can the killings have?
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