Pact with Naga outfit historic, but more remains to be done
by Ashok B Sharma on 06 Aug 2015 1 Comment

The Modi government’s intention to resolve the insurgency problem in the northeast is laudable. The results are visible in the historic accord signed with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah group) for permanent peace, ending the practice of routine renewal of ceasefire agreements. As of now, a framework agreement has been reached setting aside all contentious issues, including the longstanding demand for Nagalim or Greater Nagaland.


Naga insurgency dates back to 1918 with the formation of the Naga Club and consequently the decision of the erstwhile colonial rulers to keep Naga areas out of the purview of the Government of India Act 1935, and declaring it as “excluded areas” under the British Crown.


Keeping this historical perspective in view, Prime Minister Narendra Modi after signing of the historic accord rightly remarked that the Naga problem is a legacy of the British rule. “The colonial rulers had, by design, kept the Nagas isolated and insulated. They propagated terrible myths about Nagas in the rest of the country. They deliberately suppressed the reality that the Nagas were an extremely evolved society. They also spread negative ideas about the rest of India amongst Naga people. This was part of the well-known policy of divide and rule of the colonial rulers,” he said.


The British, as part of their divide and rule policy, kept a large part Naga areas in Myanmar (then Burma) while separating it from the rest of British India in 1937.


At Independence, Naga insurgency began to unfold with Naga leaders claiming the right to an independent state under the leadership of Angami Zapu Phizo who operated largely from London. After Phizo’s death, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) continued to maintain his claims. In January 1980, NSCN split into two factions – one led by Khaplang (NSCN-K) and the other by Isak and Muivah (NSCN-IM).


Khaplang hails from Myanmar and after this split he drew support from Konyak, Aao, Angami and other Naga tribes in Nagaland and Manipur, apart from Nagas in Myanmar. Subsequently, NSCN-K suffered a split in 2010 when some Konyaks and Semas walked out and formed NSCN-Kole-Kitovi. Again in March 2015, the Khaplang faction split and the NSCN (Reformation) was formed. As NSCN-K becoming weaker, it was compelled to sign a peace accord with the Myanmar government in April 2012.


It then joined the umbrella organization of insurgents - United National Liberation Front of West South East Asia (UNLFW) along with the United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I), Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), Kanglei Yawol Kunna Lup (KYKL), People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PRPK), People’s Liberation Army (PLA), United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland-Songbijit (NDFB-S).


The signing of the peace accord with NSCN-IM is just the first step to bringing permanent peace in the north-east. It is pertinent however, that NSCN-K is still active. On June 4, violating the peace accord, Khaplang insurgents ambushed and killed 18 members of 6 Dogra Regiment when they were patrolling Tengnoupal-New Samtal Road in Chandel district in Manipur, about 15 km from the Myanmar border. Apart from NSCN-K, KCP and KYKL have so far claimed responsibility for the attack from across the border. Subsequently on June 9, Indian security forces conducted surgical operations against known bases of insurgents across the Myanmar border and gunned some of them down.


New Delhi is seized of the issue of insurgents operating from Myanmar soil. There are areas of the border with India where Myanmar is unable to exercise its authority. Reports suggest that Indian intelligence has intercepted talks between Chinese PLA officers and Khaplang group members, and the Chinese pressuring Myanmar for a peace accord with NSCN-K. Having signed a peace accord with the NSCN-K in April 2012, Myanmar may not be willing to act against terror camps in North Sagaing region and Chin state, particularly when it is fighting with the Kokang, Kachins and other rebel groups within its own territory. But India needs Myanmar on board to tackle this problem.


The United Wa State Army declared its own Wa State Government Special Administrative Region within Myanmar from January 1, 2009 and is completely under Chinese influence. Insurgents operating against India procure arms and ammunitions from the Wa State. An arms factory has been set up in this area. The Myanmar government does not recognise this Wa State.


The Modi government has made a humble beginning in resolving the insurgency problem in the north-east with the framework accord with the NSCN-IM. The Government’s Interlocutor for Naga Peace Talks, RN Ravi played a crucial role in garnering the collective support of the Naga community. The NSCN Chairman Isak Chishi Swu, being unwell, could not attend the signing ceremony but gave his consent and general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah signed the accord along with RN Ravi.


It will be interesting to see the details and execution plans that are now being worked out and how both sides accommodate each other. New Delhi carved out a separate state of Nagaland on 1 December 1963, but Nagas complained that several Naga tribes remained outside the Nagaland state in neighbouring Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. Hence NSCN-IM demanded creation of Greater Nagaland by integrating Naga areas of these neighbouring states.


The Nagaland Assembly has passed a resolution demanding integration of these areas, while the state assemblies of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh have passed counter resolutions asserting determination not to give up these areas. Therefore, the Modi government has to work out the modalities for giving autonomy to Naga tribes without impairing the sentiments of non-Naga populations in the region.


The government will need a similar peace accord with NSCN-K and other militant outfits operating against the northeastern states from within India or from Myanmar jungles. Myanmar must be persuaded to ensure that no terrorist outfit operates from Myanmarese soil against India. Bangladesh under Sheikh Hasina has been taking firm measures against terrorists, as have Bhutan and Nepal. India needs to engage Myanmar in similar fashion.   

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