Nagaland peace process: Challenges and the way forward
Lt Col Manoj K Channan (Retd)
Bringing everlasting peace to a disturbed state always remains a challenge. The environment is dynamic and there are many who would be happy to upset the apple cart for petty gains, with a narrow political perspective. Peace is brought about by the honesty of purpose, to bring normalcy in the day to day life. This is governed by one major factor containing the trust deficit. Trust is very difficult to gain and is easily broken too. This is more so due to individual perceptions of assessing a given situation in the State. When the factor of Trust comes to organisations, it’s based on individuals who lead the dialogue of peace on either side.
Some of the recent events though routine in nature have been exponentially blown out of proportion by reading the “tea leaves’ wrong. Nagaland is a border state with Myanmar and the Defence Forces have a primary task of defending the Nation on its Eastern Border.
To be prepared for such an eventuality the Indian Army does undertake combined training with the Indian Air Force. As is the norm the various law enforcement agencies too become a part of these peacetime manoeuvres; to closely integrate them in the plans as a No War No Peace situation exists within the state.
It would be pertinent to mention other than the one time use of the Indian Air Force in Mizoram, in the early sixties, it’s never been employed within the country.
For many not familiar with such training exercises; it may have caused an alarm; leading to suspicions of some major Operation by the Security Agencies. It would be well worth to reiterate that it’s not wise to put a template to the developments in other parts of the country to those in the Naga hills.
The missive from the Chief Minister’s office of leave cancellation and personnel not to leave their headquarters on 21st October 2019 was routine. These are standard operating procedures during important events that take place. The Naga Peace Accord was to be signed on 31st October 2019, which did not happen. The security and law enforcement agencies were put on an alert to prevent any untoward incident. Restraint under high tensions was exercised.
The interlocutors of the Government of India have done yeoman service by containing the violence as well as ensuring that the rebel cadres remain contained within the thirteen nominated camps within Nagaland. The spin doctors have written that the cadres have exfiltrated from the nominated camps with their warlike stores, are incorrect; having checked with the Government.
One of the prominent NSCN (IM) cadre with a few others has moved to China; a country who has in the past been supporting the rebel organisation.
It’s a one-off case and must be left at that. For those unfamiliar with the region, it’s not difficult to do so; there are many ways extending from Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar on to Arunachal Pradesh.
This was on expected lines, as the rebels too would like to keep their options open; as a contingency.
The trust deficit indicated by these rebels needs to be resolved.
At the same time; it must be condemned by all the stakeholders, majority being the local population. Though easily stated, it’s not easy for the locals to completely alienate themselves from the rebels as the fear of reprisals persist and there are no ironclad guarantees of safety.
The impasse at this point needs to be broken, between the two parties; by the Government of India.
The Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and our Prime Minister Narendra Modi have a planned summit in Guwahati in mid- December. The Japanese Government has pledged to undertake major development works in the region. Our Prime Minister is known to do things out of the box; being closer to Christmas which is widely celebrated in the region; a Christmas Bonanza would be a wonderful gift to dispel the fears, as well as send out a positive political message that the religions and traditions of the region are respected.
The tribal chiefs, the Gaon Burra, Naga Mother’s Association and the Tribal councils should be prevailed upon to keep the environment positive and work towards a peaceful settlement. The aspirations of the Nagas are very high and they must understand that these must be pragmatic, and no drastic changes can be made geographically to accommodate a few.
Courtesy Financial Express
While the parleys with the stakeholders will continue, the perception management needs to be orchestrated too. There are no “winners” in such discussions as there are “no losers”. The statesmanship would be to give the people an understanding that it’s their common interest that has been centric and not the two parties engaged in conflict a few decades ago.
Restraint must be exercised all around, by those in the “know of things’’ to constantly refute contentious issues in public fora, which is contrary to the building up of a consensus. The issues to develop the consensus with the neighbouring states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur needs to be driven politically, that’s where the party cadres have a major role to play. There are no timelines for such issues; the stakeholders need to understand the long-term gains vis a vis short term brownie points won at the negotiating table.
(The author is a veteran of the Indian Army. Views expressed are personal.)