End of ceasefire in NE a bad call

NSCN-K has attacked Indian security forces twice already.

The end of the 15-year-long ceasefire between the Union government and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) is expected to plunge Nagaland into another cycle of bloodletting. Over the past month, there have been two major attacks by the NSCN-K on the Indian security forces, the latest resulting in the death of eight soldiers in an ambush. More violence can be expected as the NSCN-K settles scores with dissidents, rival insurgent groups and the state. Neither side has revealed the reasons for their decision to call off the truce. However, it is believed that the NSCN-K’s repeated violation of the ceasefire on the ground and its support to banned anti-India terrorist groups forced the government’s hand. Together with groups like the Paresh Barua faction of ULFA and the KLO, the NSCN-K has formed a united front and is reported to be planning to announce a government-in-exile later this year. Is it in preparation for this that the NSCN-K decided to abrogate the ceasefire? Although the government-NSCN-K truce agreement was in place for 15 years, the government did not include it in negotiations, apparently because the group’s members are predominantly Myanmarese Nagas. It is likely that anxious to placate the NSCN-Isak-Muivah – the most powerful of the Naga militant groups – Delhi kept its main rival, the Khaplang group, out of the negotiations. This exclusion may have prompted a peeved NSCN-Khaplang to opt out of the ceasefire and pursue other options.

While India has done well to extend the ceasefire with the NSCN-IM, the NSCN-Reformation, etc, it needs to take a serious look at the peace process. As unfolding events reveal, excluding groups from the ceasefire is a costly omission. Besides, the government seems more preoccupied with the ceasefire rather than productive negotiations. Officials appear to be playing for time, hoping that if the ceasefire drags on, the insurgency will die down as ageing leaders exit the scene. None of the promised economic development in the region has materialised. This provides incentive to youth to join the militant organisations, which function more like extortionist gangs than ideologically-driven cadres.

As Nagaland and the North-East stares at another escalation in violence, India must act fast. It needs to correct mistakes in its ceasefire and negotiation stra-tegy before more groups join hands with the NSCN-Khaplang. Delhi needs to reach out to the governments of Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Several groups including NSCN-K have bases in these countries.
A crackdown on these training camps is essential to weaken their capacity for violence.

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