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To Sign or Not to Sign: What does Nagas think about Naga?

Pamreihor Khashimwo

 

2017 will be an important but difficult year for Naga. While the world is entering into the brand new year, Naga is expecting from the crucial and protracted peace negotiation which kick-started in 1997, which are expected to be a fierce intellectual battle. Modi can prove to be “make it or break it” moment in Naga’s relations with the India, which are presently in a watershed moment. The Naga saw her imprisonment (hunger of power, corruption and the focused now on material accumulation for their selfish attainment of artificial status in society) along with the lack of New Delhi political commitment to resolve the issues. This was compounded by a deterioration of democratic values of NSCN (IM), which spearheading the political negotiation. Amid concern over the way the political process was being conducted, many Naga organisations and individual concern have been seriously voicing, that the dialectical approach of both NSCN (IM) and New Delhi and could derail the peace process, which has spent the last 19 years negotiating.
At the first glance, what does Nagas think about Naga? Might seem a strange question. However, it is the one that many populations of Naga as well as the India are increasingly asking themselves and understandably so. After so many years of the negotiation, India seems to have lost interest in it. The primacy that Naga issue once assumed in Indian domestic issues and foreign policy has rapidly vanished. What do the Naga want? What does Indian think about Indo-Naga peace negotiation? Is there any vision left? From start, the ceasefire has rested on a gamble. When Naga leaders opted for a ceasefire in 1997, they wagered that Naga’s could converge toward one another; with all the different tribes demographically living in different states, would have become a little more like one, by accepting each other to form a consolidated “Nagalim” as a one common body. This did not occur. Today, Naga is political, socially, and economically in mess, the true implications of this gamble are becoming clear. The struggle continues with no sign of political pact almost after 20 years of negotiations, which led to vulnerability instead of freedom, indebtedness instead of autonomy, poverty instead of prosperity and a deep political, economic and spiritual crisis instead of hope, optimism, and fraternity. And yet desired for freedom lived on.

 

James A. Barker III former US secretary of State once said, “Almost every achievement contains within its success the seeds of a future problem.” This political and social mess provides a trenchant example of this phenomenon. When the long sought but uncertain implementation of a cease-fire finally began, as a part of a bundle of deals that produced Naga under one umbrella, it represents a significant accomplishment. The implementation of cease-fire provided the necessary catalyst for all the success of that achievement, however, is left behind fateful seeds, which is sprouting. The mess resulted not only from the Government of India insincerity, lack of political vision and divide and rule policy but also from flaws in our leaders approach and long-term decline in interest in true Naga issues cooperation. We are in muddling through the period.

 

The Naga leaders have done a remarkable job managing the short-term symptoms of the chaos, although the costs have been great and tragic. Yet the long-term challenge remains. For this to happen, Naga must align politically, socially and other areas, which will first require Naga to reject the common misdiagnoses of the current mess. It is the result of a fundamental disequilibrium within the single political zone, which the current leaders applies a single political and social policy to diverse tribal groups. Thus, presence leaders must trust in the essentially democratic nature of the Naga society, which will encourage them to distribute the cost of convergence more fairly within and among the tribes. The burden must be shifted from the top-down public policy to periphery political, social and economic activities of respective tribes who involves in the mainstream of the society. If this does not occur, then survival of the so-called Nagalim will be called into question and Naga will face a long-term social, economic and political catastrophic that could drain its political strength and social coherence for the rest of this decade and beyond.

 

If the Naga is to continue to function, some damage limitation is needed. Our leaders must show constructive leadership role which includes greater willingness to discuss people contribution in strengthening the nation formation as demanded, as well as the presentation of a vigorous case to the people, that saving the political aspiration and achievement the political aspiration lie at the heart of Naga national interest. Our current leaders have thus far reacted to this stunning loss of momentum by entering a holding pattern. The hope is to buy enough time for new leaders to emerge who will reclaim the Naga project. However, buying time may not be the best the leaders can do for now. The Naga needs a new generation of leaders who can breathe life into a project that is perilously close to expiring in this unthinking generation. For now, they are nowhere to be found. However, history is knocking on our door. So what will determine whether the Naga stalls in its Naga projects or moves forward? The current political negotiation with the government of India narrative is unsure, fragmented and does not provide the necessary political foundation for a wide-ranging institutional capacity building. The lack of consensus about the correct political formula for Naga seriously compromises any further progress. Today we are witnessing a rise of political intolerance, crony capitalism, and social detachment in Naga society. Now is the time for Naga to produce a constructive result from the crisis with strong political will and creativity to respond with decisive innovation. There has been a striking lack of coordinated political leadership across the Naga area in the face of political pressure. Dialoguing is the best way to unlock misunderstanding.

 

Here, look at the history of how the European Union (EU) come into existing, the essential point is not only that cooperation is possible but also that it is, more importantly, desirable to improve economic development, political stability, and social well-being. The fact that the European countries that had been involved in two bloodied devastating wars were capable of cooperating under the umbrella of the EU and the euro has become extremely significance on contemporary politics. The EU has an excellent record of recovering from crisis and moving ahead even stronger than before due to firm political will. It is astounding that the states of Europe, so long used to deals with each other with bayonets and tanks, are now tightly bound together within a series of interlocking laws and institutions. This degree of integration of sovereign nation-states is unprecedented in modern times and has formed the basis of the peace and prosperity of Europe. In pursuing their political integration through institutional and market means rather than warfare and territorial acquisition the EU has created a new type of political entity in the global system, one whose tight institutional linkages and political community will. As the EU’s experience demonstrates, historical reconciliation is a critical element in developing the necessary political will for cooperation. In stark contrast, there has been no such effort in our struggle. Perhaps, that fresh breeze of air to get the Naga ship sailing again. Only together we can generate the policies and institutions.

 

Observing under the magnifying lens, collective leader’s policy on Naga political issue appears to be undefined based on tactics rather than strategy. It lacks a political vision and wisdom and uncomfortable with the active independent participation of people. In the background, three major developments have triggered a change in New Delhi views and policy towards the Naga issue: first, a shifting definition of the Naga national interest, second, new perceptions and priorities alongside a transformed domestic agenda and third, the demise of a responsive political milieu. At no time in the history of the Naga national movement, the leaders have been less popular at home and leadership role has been of less relevance- but even that seems to be of little significance in the political discourse of the Naga. The approval rates of Indo-Naga peace negotiation have been declining and the Naga public and elites would like to see the negotiation as the maximalist end game. The changes in Naga political scenario have certainly influenced the metamorphosis of India’s political landscape. Seemingly, the negotiation has its lowest point and collective leadership finds itself in conceptual disarray. A disruption or breakdown of the hard earn peace process would be a disaster for Naga political movement and India’s domestic political discourse and international image. The strategic approach would be to regain lost public trust over the overdue negotiation. Such is the Naga dilemma. What Naga’s ready to do didn’t settle the issue. What could resolve the problem, New Delhi isn’t willing to do.

 

If the latest Naga accord is everything its most optimistic reading promises, it would underline one of the most resilient truths of ancient statecraft. Many years have passed since the signing of cease-fire agreement and more than one years have passed after the ‘Framework Agreement,’ which provide a closer than ever before to the final settlement and hope in times of no hope to conclude it sooner than later, this will usher in a new political era for all Naga, unfortunately the agreement has not been finalized yet. The ‘Framework Agreement’ informs that New Delhi has projected it as the first concrete fruition of the peace process in Nagaland, both the parties claimed that now the negotiation has a focus-oriented approach to push for a final acceptable solution. However, both the parties remained tight-lipped on the content of the agreement, calling as ‘sensitive subject’ conceding only that it lays down broad principle within which final agreement will be based. While ambiguity surrounding the ‘hidden contents’ of so-called the ‘Framework Agreement’ persists, some developments give an indication of the course of the talks. One of the major challenges for finalising a settlement is the drafting of an “inclusive solution” with a single Naga group. There are several Naga militant factions, as well as political and tribal groups fighting for. Further, the spreading speculations about the contents of the agreements have also complicated issues on the ground.

 

Given the current Naga political scenario, any persistence of uncertainty can only feed the forces of destabilisation. Even if a final settlement is not imminent, greater clarity on the status of the peace process, and on the terms of negotiations currently prevailing, can help contribute to a greater sense of calm in Nagaland and its neighbouring states. Crucially, whether the present accord eventually works out as a Naga accord or simply as an NSCN (IM) accord; as a pattern of piece-meal appeared appeasement that the Naga have repeatedly rejected over the past several decades remains to be seen. This will test the political sagacity of both New Delhi and of the NSCN (IM) leadership.

 

Pamreihor Khashimwo is a Doctoral Candidate at the Centre for European Studies, School of International Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.



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