New Delhi/Dimapur, May 24
Things are definitely moving forward and in a constructive manner. On May 20, the NSCN (IM) put on record that it is “not opposed to an early solution” and now, amid intense speculation on the fate of Naga peace talks, reports have suggested that Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and other members of Core Committee will meet the NSCN (IM) top leaders on May 31.
Sources said that NSCN (IM) president Q Tuccu by a communique has convened the meeting of ‘Tatar and above and the National Assembly’ will be also attended by senior members of ‘Naga army’.
Each ‘Naga region’ as defined in NSCN (IM) organisational structure will also depute five members. The copy of the communique has been sent among others to Thuingaleng Muivah, NSCN (IM) general secretary, members of the ‘collective leadership’ and Speaker Tatar Hoho.
Such meetings are called rarely and even if they are done, it is done quite secretly.
A 10-member NSCN (IM) delegation led by VS Atem camped in Delhi recently and held at least two rounds of important parleys with the new peace emissary AK Mishra.
The Core Committee members led by Chief Minister Rio also held a meeting with Mishra.
The sources said Rio and other members of the Core Committee and a few other State Ministers will meet in Kohima on Wednesday to chalk out the necessary strategies.
Rio and some of his colleagues may meet NSCN (IM) top leaders by May 28-29 as well.
Earlier this month, Union Home Minister Amit Shah held an important meeting with Naga leaders, including Rio and Deputy Chief Minister Y Patton, in Guwahati.
In Delhi, convening of the meeting of senior NSCN (IM) leaders on May 31 is being seen as a ‘positive development’ and part of the expected process.
On May 20, the NSCN (IM) had stated: “We understand the pressing situation where people are over burdened with multiple factions and taxations and which can only see the end once early Naga solution materialises.”
This only shows the pressure created by various quarters and persuasive skills of peace emissary Mishra and other stakeholders are working.
For some time an impression had gone that the NSC (IM) was not in favour of an early solution and would instead prefer the status quo. By default or otherwise, it was given to understand that even a section of State leaders preferred the status quo and lingering talk process instead of a solution or a final peace pact.
The talks had begun formally way back in 1997 when IK Gujral was the Prime Minister.
The rise in the political fortunes of Rio as against the electoral downfall of SC Jamir commenced in 2003. Naturally, Rio’s detractors and others have circulated a concept that Rio too would prefer the status quo.
But now the reality seemed to have dawn on all concerned. And everyone is appreciating the crying need for a solution.
Two principal documents form the basis of one or more possible accords, the Framework Agreement of 2015 and the Agreed Position of 2017.
The ‘perceived’ delay in finalising a formal accord between 2015 and November 2017 essentially led to the formation of the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs), an umbrella organisation of seven militant groups.
The Centre had said there was little option left not to ‘encourage’ the NNPGs towards the peace process once the Naga Tribal Council had chipped in.
The Framework Agreement was signed between NSCN (IM) and the Centre’s then Interlocutor RN Ravi on August 3, 2015. The NNPG and Ravi inked the Agreed Position on November 17, 2017.
NNPG is a platform of seven underground groups operating within Nagaland State and is keen to sign a peace pact in order to herald an era of lasting peace.
On the other hand, the issues of a Flag and separate Naga Constitution were flagged off by the NSCN (IM) post October 2019. The Union Government has obviously rejected the twin demands categorically.
There are of course pressures from all quarters on the Centre, as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Nagaland Tribes Council (NTC) has written to Prime Minister Modi urging him to expedite the resolution of the Naga peace process, saying Nagas were “impatient now on the non-resolution and the extensive policy of negotiations for a solution to the Naga political issue”.
The Naga peace talks, according to one version, were over by October 31, 2019. But hurdles and differences have remained like the issue of Flag and ‘integration’ of contiguous areas and hence efforts are being made to end the deadlock.
Indeed, a number of formal and informal interactions have taken place between Centre’s new peace emissary Mishra and underground leaders including from the NSCN (IM) and NNPGs.
Nagaland Assembly elections are due by February-March 2023 and hence time is running out.
Moreover, the BJP in their 2018 poll campaign had coined the slogan ‘Election for Solution’ and hence it is imperative that things are delivered at the earliest.
Lately, differences have surfaced between the BJP and Chief Minister Rio, but mostly at local levels.
In Delhi, Rio is perhaps still an ‘asset’ to the Central leadership provided he does two things, avoid crude anti-BJP politics and more importantly as the Chief Minister, he has to deliver ‘peace and an early solution’.
Playing his cards close to his chest, Rio is avoiding media interaction. This is not a bad move because at this juncture the likes of Amit Shah would want him to deliver peace and facilitate an ‘early solution’ and significantly ‘keeping all stakeholders’ on board. Media shows are not important.
Rio is smart enough to understand that if he delivers the political history of Nagaland would remember him.
Importantly, a solution to the Naga problem will be a mega feather in the cap for Prime Minister Modi, who does not mind glamour associated with the challenges of ‘solving’ the oldest and vexed insurgency problem in South Asia.