The Naga rebel group National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) said it was ready to resume talks with the central government after meeting with the Core Committee on the Naga Political Issue (CCoNPI) on Saturday. A delegation of the NSCN-IM will leave for New Delhi on Monday to discuss some “unresolved matters” on Tuesday.
A two-hour long meeting between CCoNPI members and representatives of the NSCN-IM was held on Saturday in Nagaland’s Chumukeidma. It was convened after the Centre asked the committee headed by chief minister Neiphiu Rio to convince the outfit to come forward to resume peace talks and ink a final solution.
The NSCN-IM, which had earlier raised the issues of a separate flag and constitution, is keen on talks with the Centre based on clauses and promises made in the framework agreement of August 3, 2015. Former Nagaland CM TR Zeliang, who is the chairman of the ruling United Democratic Alliance (UDA) in the state, said the NSCN-IM agreed to resume the process respecting a request of the CCoNPI.
Zeliang said, “The NSCN-IM has agreed to resume talks on the condition that they are based on the framework agreement and the formulation papers submitted to RN Ravi and AK Mishra.”
The Centre has been holding two separate parleys with the NSCN-IM since 1997 and the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) comprising seven rebel groups since 2017. It signed a framework agreement with the NSCN-IM on August 3, 2015, and also entered into an agreed position with NNPGs in December 2017.
Negotiations between the Centre and the NSCN-IM, however, have been stalled since May. On this matter, Zeliang said: “They are not happy with interlocutor AK Mishra over the omission of some of the politically important points, which were included in the formulation paper submitted by former interlocutor RN Ravi.”
He said no new issues were discussed at Saturday’s meeting except what was conveyed to the committee by union home minister Amit Shah on September 12, and that the same was conveyed to the NSCN-IM. Zeliang said the committee had planned to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi but that he directed the Shah to do so.
Zeliang also said the role of CCoNPI was to act as facilitators and to “convey the feeling of Nagas and the feeling of the government of India to the negotiators”, adding they were in no way involved with the negotiation.
Asked if a solution can be expected before the upcoming Nagaland legislative assembly elections, Zeliang said that will entirely depend on both the NSCN-IM and the Centre on whether they were ready to sign the final agreement before the elections. As for the working committee of NNPGs, Zeliang said they were prepared to sign the final agreement at any time. It was also learnt that NSCN-IM members were also given a copy of the July 16, 2022, resolution adopted by the CCoNPI.
‘Ball in GoI’s court’
Talking to the media, NSCN-IM member collective leadership, Rh Raising made it clear that the ball was in the central government’s court. “It is they (GoI) who are to decide. We have been waiting for their response,” Raising said.
Asked to comment on the Centre’s directive to CCoNPI to convince the NSCN-IM on signing the final agreement, Raising said, “It is in the process. It has to be settled in the table between the Government of India and the NSCN-IM, not here.”
Background of the conflict
In September 2021, RN Ravi was succeeded by AK Mishra, a former special director of the Intelligence Bureau, as the Centre’s interlocutor for the Naga peace process in September 2021. Ravi is now the Tamil Nadu governor. The framework agreement, which the Centre had signed with the outfit in 2015 in the presence of Prime Minister Modi, and a “formulation papers”, were submitted to the Centre.
The Rio-led coalition government is acting as a facilitator for an early solution to the Naga issue. The Naga solution hangs fire ostensibly as the NSCN-IM has stuck to its guns on the “non-negotiable” demand of the Naga flag and constitution. The Centre has already rejected it.