On 3 August when Parliament was in uproar over the suspension of 25 Congress lawmakers from the Lok Sabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Today, we would be witness to an important & landmark event at 6.30 pm at rcr (sic).” There was a sense of anticipation for what was to come. And before long, it became known that a 68-year-old vexed issue bedevilling a part of India’s Northeast had been laid to rest with the signing of an agreement between National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak- Muivah) and the Centre. Instantly, it drew parallels with the Mizoram and the Assam accords of the 1980s and raised hopes of the entire Northeast now being on the cusp of a positive change, in addition to ensuring a peaceful periphery and imparting a new momentum and purpose to New Delhi’s Act East policy, which is anchored in the Northeast.
Modi described it as “not merely the end of a problem but the beginning of a new future” and a “historic agreement”. Historic because, as he explained in his speech after the agreement was signed on the government’s side by its interlocutor for Naga peace talks, RN Ravi, and by Thuingaleng Muivah, general secretary (and afterwards by Isak Swu, chairman) on behalf of the NSCN (I-M), the Naga political issue had lingered for six decades, taking a huge toll on generations of people. A statement issued separately by the government added for good measure that this agreement ends the oldest insurgency in the country and it will restore peace and pave the way for prosperity in the Northeast. On the occasion, Muivah said that Nagaland was entering a “new relationship” with the government. He subsequently elaborated in a separate statement that “a framework agreement has been concluded basing on the unique history and position of the Nagas and recognising the universal principle that in a democracy, sovereignty lies with the people.”
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The agreement marks the culmination of several decades of talks, at home and at multiple locations abroad, and at various levels, prime ministers included, and it comes 18 years after the NSCN (I-M) entered into a ceasefire agreement in 1997. The contours of the framework agreement were not immediately known. The government statement mentioned above only said: “The Government of India recognised the unique history, culture and position of the Nagas and their sentiments and aspirations. The NSCN understood and appreciated the Indian political system and governance.” And, it added, “details and execution plan will be released shortly”. What can be gleaned from multiple sources privy to the protracted negotiations are the following:
♦ One, the NSCN (I-M) is understood to have agreed to more than a modus vivendi with the Centre on honouring the unity, integrity and sovereignty of India and its Constitution;
♦ Two, the NSCN (I-M) would be amenable to concurring with the Centre’s position that boundaries should not be redrawn in order to integrate contiguous Naga-inhabited areas in the adjoining states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh into a Greater Nagaland or Nagalim;