The Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) signed a historic peace accord on Monday, bringing hopes of lasting peace in Nagaland. The details of the accord are expected to be released later.
The accord came after 80 rounds of negotiations over 18 years. The NSCN (IM) had entered into ceasefire with the government in 1997.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, and NSCN(IM) leader T Muivah and government’s interlocutor R N Ravi were present at the at the PM’s residence where the pact was signed. Modi described as a “historic” step to usher in peace in the state.
“Today, we mark not merely the end of a problem, but the beginning of a new future.”
“We will not only try to heal wounds and resolve problems, but also be your partner as you restore your pride and prestige.”
– Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India
The timing of signing the peace accord is significant. While NSCN (IM) had adhered to the ceasefire agreement, its rival faction led by SS Khalpang had unleashed a region of terror recently in Nagaland. It has killed 18 Indian soldiers in June, prompting India to undertake operations against the outfit’s hideout across the Myanmar border.
The government hopes that with the NSC(IM) faction firmly on its side, it could now be better placed to eliminate the Khaplang faction.
The details of the agreement were not released to media. Among other things, the NSCN(IM) was pressing for the inclusion of all Naga-inhabited areas in the North East across Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam into a greater Nagaland. This is being opposed by the affected states.
In a release the government said that its interlocutor for Naga Peace Talks, R.N. Ravi, signed the Agreement on behalf of the Government of India. Isa Chichi Swum, Chairman and Th. Muivah, General Secretary were the signatories on behalf of the NSCN. The entire top leadership of the NSCN (IM), including all members of the “collective leadership”, has fully endorsed the agreement and was present during the ceremony, it said..
“This agreement will end the oldest insurgency in the country. It will restore peace and pave the way for prosperity in the North East. It will advance a life of dignity, opportunity and equity for the Naga people, based on their genius and consistent with the uniqueness of the Naga people and their culture and traditions.”
– Press Release on Naga Peace Accord
Attempts were made from time to time to resolve the issue through discussion with representatives of the Naga people. A fresh attempt for a comprehensive resolution was initiated with the NSCN in 1997.
The new Government on assuming power in May 2014 accorded highest priority to this lingering problem. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has on a number of occasions, including during visits to the Northeast region, articulated his vision for transforming the Northeast and has attached the highest priority to peace, security, connectivity and economic development in the region. This has also been at the heart of the Government’s foreign policy, especially ‘Act East’ Policy.
The sustained dialogue between the two sides, conducted in a spirit of equality, respect and trust, deepened their mutual understanding and confidence, and enabled the two sides to reach an equitable agreement. The Government of India recognized 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.
The Government interlocutor also held frequent consultations with broad spectrum of Naga leaders, including those from the traditional tribal bodies, civil society, youth and students’ bodies, women’s groups, elected representatives and other stakeholders. These consultations helped in distilling the popular aspirations of the Naga people and in enhancing a healthy atmosphere of trust and understanding, the release said.
In his statement at the signing ceremony, Modi lauded the courage and wisdom of the Naga leaders and civil society and thanked them for their co-operation in reaching the agreement. He also praised the Naga people for their support and the NSCN for maintaining the ceasefire for nearly two decades that enabled the dialogue to succeed. Prime Minister spoke of his vision for the transformation of the Northeast region. He also expressed confidence that the agreement will open a glorious new chapter for the Naga people to build a bright future for Nagaland and also contribute to the nation with a sense of pride and confidence, the release concluded.
Following is the text of the speech made by Narendra Modi on the occasion:
Shri Rajnath Singhji, Home Minister Shri Muivah and all senior leaders of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland.
My warm greetings to all those present here today on this historic occasion!
I wish that Shri Isak Swu, who played a leading role in reaching this agreement, was present today. He could not be here because of poor health. I wish him speedy recovery. Just as his contribution to this agreement has been huge, his guidance will remain crucial in the times ahead.
The Naga political issue had lingered for six decades, taking a huge toll on generations of our people.
I sincerely thank Shri Isak Swu, Shri Muivah and other Naga leaders for their wisdom and courage, for their efforts and cooperation, which has resulted in this historic agreement.
I have the deepest admiration for the great Naga people for their extraordinary support to the peace efforts. I compliment the National Socialist Council of Nagaland for maintaining the ceasefire agreement for nearly two decades, with a sense of honour that defines the great Naga people.
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. It makes not only our nation, but also the world a more beautiful place.
The Naga courage and commitment are legendary. Equally, they represent the highest levels of humanism. Their system of village administration and grass-root democracy should be an inspiration for the rest of the country.
The respect for the infirm and elders, the status of women in society, sensitivity to Mother Nature, and the emphasis on social equality is a natural way of Naga life. These are values that should constitute the foundation of the society that we all seek.
Unfortunately, the Naga problem has taken so long to resolve because we did not understand each other. It 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.
It is one of the tragedies of Independent India that we have lived with this legacy. There were not many like Mahatma Gandhi, who loved the Naga people and was sensitive to their sentiments. We have continued to look at each other through the prism of false perceptions and old prejudices.
The result was that connectivity between Nagaland and the rest of India remained weak across this divide. Economic development and progress in Nagaland remained modest; and, durable peace was elusive.
Since becoming Prime Minister last year, peace, security and economic transformation of North East has been amongst my highest priorities. It is also at the heart of my foreign policy, especially the ‘Act East’ Policy.
I have been deeply concerned about resolving the Naga issue. Soon after entering office, I appointed an interlocutor for talks with the Naga leaders, who not only understood the Naga people as also their aspirations and expectations, but has great affection and respect for them.
Given the importance of this initiative, I asked my office to supervise these talks; and I personally kept in touch with the progress. I want to especially thank my senior colleague, Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singhji, whose support and advice was invaluable in bringing us here today.
Today’s agreement is a shining example of what we can achieve when we deal with each other in a spirit of equality and respect, trust and confidence; when we seek to understand concerns and try to address aspirations; when we leave the path of dispute and take the high road of dialogue. It is a lesson and an inspiration in our troubled world.
Today, we mark not merely the end of a problem, but the beginning of a new future. We will not only try to heal wounds and resolve problems, but also be your partner as you restore your pride and prestige.
Today, to the leaders and the people of Nagaland, I say this: You will not only build a bright future for Nagaland, but your talents, traditions and efforts will also contribute to making the nation stronger, more secure, more inclusive and more prosperous. You are also the guardians of our eastern frontiers and our gateway to the world beyond.
Equally, the rest of the nation will join you in shaping a future of dignity, opportunity and prosperity for the Naga people.
Today, as you begin a new glorious chapter with a sense of pride, self-confidence and self-respect, I join the nation in saluting you and conveying our good wishes to the Naga people.
– Prime Minister Narendra Modi
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