Centre, Naga rebel group sign historic peace accord

Oldest insurgency ends after 18 yrs of negotiations

Centre, Naga rebel group sign historic peace accord

The Centre and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) signed a “historic” peace accord on Monday, capping 18 years of negotiations to solve India's “oldest insurgency”.

However, the fate of the NSCN(IM)’s main demand — integrating Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam’s Naga-inhabited areas under “Nagalim” — is not known as the government has not publicised the accord’s contents.

Details and execution plan “within this framework agreement” are to be released shortly, with the ongoing Parliament session being the reason why they were not revealed on Monday. Home Minister Rajnath Singh is expected to make a statement in the House when it re-convenes on Tuesday.

However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi briefed prominent Opposition leaders, including Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, over telephone about the accord, signed in his presence at his official 7 Race Course Road residence by NSCN(IM) general secretary Th Muivah and Naga peace interlocutor R N Ravi.

“Today, we mark not merely the end of a problem but the beginning of a new future,” said Modi after the signing.

“Today’s agreement is a shining example of what we can achieve when we deal with each other in a spirit of equality and respect, trust and confidence, when we seek to understand concerns and try to address aspirations, when we leave the path of dispute and take the high road of dialogue. It is a lesson and an inspiration in our troubled world,” he added.

The talks were stuck on the crucial point of the Naga-inhabited areas, with the NSCN(IM) unwilling to compromise on this demand.

Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh’s non-Naga communities are opposed to the “expansionist aspirations” of the NSCN(IM), which has been pursuing the peace process with New Delhi since 1997, when a ceasefire agreement provided a breakthrough.

The accord, however, may not have a smooth run as a rival NSCN faction led by S S Khaplang, walked out of the ceasefire agreement and negotiations. It also attacked an Army convoy on June 4, killing 18 soldiers, following which the Army raided Naga rebel camps inside Myanmar.

“This agreement will end the oldest insurgency in the country. It will restore peace and pave the way for prosperity in the North-East,” said an official statement.  “The NSCN understood and appreciated the Indian political system and governance,” it added.

Addressing the gathering at his residence, Modi said: “The Naga problem has unfortunately taken so long to resolve because we did not understand each other.”

Noting that the British propagated “terrible myths about Nagas” in the rest of the country, he said: “There were not many like Mahatma Gandhi, who loved the Naga people and were sensitive to their sentiments. We have continued to look at each other through the prism of false perceptions and old prejudices.” On his part, Muivah described the deal as a “momentous occasion”, lauded Modi's vision and wisdom, and said Nagas “can be trustworthy”. However, he also cautioned that now the “challenges will be great”.

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