Muivah, in turn, had this to say: “On behalf of the Naga people I want to assure you once again that the Nagas can be trustworthy and taken into confidence for any policy for the Northeast[.] Today[,] we have come close to understand (sic) each other and have worked out a new relationship.” With such terms of endearment on display, firming up the terms of engagement going forward to add ballast to the framework agreement should not be too difficult. The devil will be in the detail but even as we wait to peruse the text of the agreement, it is imperative that we appreciate the subtext, too.
The mutual understanding and spirit of accommodation shown by both sides can be viewed as an incentive and an invitation to other similar insurgents in the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir. To quote Modi, “It (Naga peace accord) is a lesson and an inspiration in our troubled world.” Already, PDP chief spokesperson Mehboob Beg has urged the Centre to adopt a similar approach to engage with all stakeholders in the state.
A PDP-BJP coalition government in power in J&K might just be the catalyst for a New Deal with Kashmiri separatists of all hues, some of whom are aging and might want to see a resolution in their lifetime. (The failing health of Isak Swu, who is hospitalised in New Delhi, is understood to have spurred Muivah, who himself is over 80 years old, and others to enter into the agreement with New Delhi.) This could be independent of any dialogue that New Delhi might pursue with Islamabad going forward.
It is of the essence that any such move is preceded by homework and attention to detail and followed up with nimbleness, dexterity, flexibility and — as former Raw chief AS Dulat writes in his book Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years — empathy. All this is assuming the Centre and the NSCN (I-M) take the New Delhi Accord to a logical conclusion over the next few months and its successful template encourages others to follow suit. We surely don’t want to see a repeat of the days from the late prime minister PV Narasimha Rao’s tenure when he famously remarked that the “the sky is the limit” for a new beginning in J&K but it did not have the desired consequences, as has been documented at some length by Dulat. If there ever was a more propitious moment for New Delhi to take Dulat up on his observation about reaching out to certain alienated Kashmiris, now is it. But is Hizbul Mujahideen chief and United Jihad Council chairman Syed Salahuddin listening?