Putting an end to a decades-long bitter insurgency in Nagaland, India has signed a historic peace accord with the rebel NSCN(IM), that promises a return to normalcy in the state, while making it easier for India to integrate eastwards towards Asia.
The agreement was signed by chief Indian interlocutor R N Ravi, with T Muivah, chairman of NSCN (IM), the largest of the Naga insurgent groups, at the Prime Minister’s residence. The deal was signed at 7 Race Course Road in the presence of Home Minister Rajnath Singh, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah. From the other side, 19 top Naga leaders from different organizations and civil society groups were present.
The terms of the accord have not been announced, triggering speculation about what the details could be. According to media reports, Muivah did not insist on the demand for the creation of greater Nagaland by clubbing all Naga-dominated pockets scattered across Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. This suggests that the breakthrough could be about an agreement over the degree of autonomy that Nagas outside Nagaland will have.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed the accord a “landmark” and welcomed it saying, “We will not only try to heal wounds and resolve problems, but also be your partner as you restore your pride and prestige.” Muivah said, the government and Nagas were entering a “new relationship”. However, the insurgent leader sounded more cautious than Modi. An optimistic Modi said, “Today, we mark not merely the end of a problem, but the beginning of a new future.”
Modi in his address praised NSCN (IM) leaders T. Muivah and Isak Swu for showing wisdom and courage and for making this effort which resulted in the historical agreement. “I have the deepest admiration for the great Naga people for their extraordinary support to the peace efforts,” he said. “My relationship with the North East has been deep. I have travelled to Nagaland on many occasions. I have been deeply impressed by the rich and diverse culture and the unique way of life of the Naga people.” The prime minister said that, “unfortunately, the Naga problem has taken so long to resolve because we did not understand each other”. “The Naga courage and commitment are legendary. Equally, they represent the highest levels of humanism,” he added.
While Muivah promised that Nagas would honour the accord, he acknowledged that challenges still remain. The accord promises to end the longest running insurgency in the northeast, which has significant implications for development of the region. Naga violence has been a big deterrent to investment in those states. But more than that, it has alienated generations of Nagas, which has made peace more difficult.