Stage set for fresh Naga peace talks between Centre, NSCN-IM in Delhi

Stage set for fresh Naga peace talks between Centre, NSCN-IM in Delhi

The Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) is set to resume peace dialogue with the Central government, which was stalled since May this year as the outfit had been upset with the Centre’s interlocutor AK Mishra for omitting “potentially important points” that his predecessor R N Ravi had included in his formulation papers earlier.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Nagaland Deputy Chief Minister Y Patton, who is also in-charge of the home department, said an NSCN-IM team headed to Delhi to join the next round of dialogue with the Centre.

The NSCN-IM’s move was announced Sunday by the chairman of the Nagaland’s ruling United Democratic Alliance, TR Zeliang. Besides the Centre’s interlocutor, their peace talks have been handled by a Core Committee of the Nagaland government, which is headed by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio with Zeliang as its co-chairman.

Zeliang arrived in New Delhi Monday along with a seven-member NSCN-IM team led by former commander of the Naga army and member of the IM’s Collective Leadership, V.S.Atem.

“The talks between the NSCN-IM and the Indian government will resume within the next one or two days. The IM team is expected to stay in New Delhi till a consensus is reached,” said Zeliang while speaking with The Indian Express.

The talks had stalled after interlocutor Mishra had dropped three points that had been agreed upon between former interlocutor Ravi and the NSCN-IM, which the insurgent group had
objected to.

“The NSCN-IM has agreed to resume talks now that the Centre has agreed that all the competencies will be taken on board – both those filed by Ravi in 2019, as well as those filed by Mishra later. The Centre has also agreed that the talks will be resumed based on the Framework Agreement that had been signed between Ravi and IM, and that is why the IM has also agreed to resume talks,” Zeliang said.

A two-hour meeting was held on Saturday in Nagaland’s Chümoukedima between the NSCN-IM and the Core Committee, after the central government asked the latter to convene it to convince the rebel outfit to rejoin the dialogue and agree to a final solution.

The NSCN-IM has been in talks with the Government of India since 1997, when the group announced ceasefire. The Centre opened parallel talks with the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs), an umbrella body of seven Naga organisations, in December 2017.

The peace dialogue between the Centre and the NSCN-IM are held on the basis of the Framework Agreement signed between them on August 3, 2015. Eighty rounds of talks were held between the two sides before this agreement was signed.

The Centre’s deadline for peace talks had expired on October 31, 2019 without any accord being signed, following which the NSCN-IM has a falling out with Ravi, who was replaced with Mishra as the interlocutor in January 2020. Ravi was subsequently appointed as the Tamil Nadu Governor.

Among other issues, a key sticking point in the negotiations between the two sides has been an apparent impasse over the Naga flag. While the central government offered to accept the flag as a cultural symbol, the NSCN-IM said it was not “impressed” by the idea.

“The Naga issue is not a cultural issue that the Government of India should change the Naga flag as a cultural symbol and forgo the Naga political identity as symbolised by the Naga flag”, the NSCN-IM had said earlier, maintaining that this flag was not “just a piece of cloth” but a “symbol” of the Naga people’s “pride and values”.

The rebel group also squarely rejected the central government’s proposal of post-facto resolution of issues pertaining to the Naga flag and the Naga Constitution – which the former has been demanding all along – following the peace agreement.

“NSCN cannot drag the Naga people to make another blunder by falling into the trap being machinated by the Government of India”, it had said earlier. The group had also told the Core Committee that it would resume peace talks with the Centre if it is based on the 2015 Framework Agreement and Ravi’s formulation papers.

On September 14 this year, the NSCN-IM and the NNPGs issued a joint statement, saying that the “Covenant of Recommendation” signed by late Isak Chishi Swu, late SS Khaplang and S Singnya on June 13, 2009 would be honored in letter and spirit. “….We renew to work together in the spirit of love, and desist from all forms of armed violence and refrain from indulging in violence of words through print and social media among Naga Political Groups and the general public. From this time forth, in order to chart a path forward, we remain committed to peace and respect and to resolve outstanding issues among us,” the statement said.

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It also admitted to be “aware of our differences”, stating that both sides would guard themselves against rifts between them.

The two bodies also “urgently appealed” to all individuals and organisations to refrain from all forms of rhetoric, assumptions and agendas that are divisive. “Such a culture must end immediately. In this regard, churches, educational institutions, civil society organisations and conscientious individuals must take the charge to lead with faithful discernment,” the statement said, adding that they were committed to a dialogue in order to move forward and live in peace.