Moment of Truth for the Nagas
The latest round of talks between representatives of the Indian government and the Naga people [members of UNPO] ended last Tuesday [31 July 2007] in Dimapur, Nagalim. For the first time since the beginning of the negotiations ten years ago, the talks took place in a Naga city. While the dialogue seems to have taken a constructive turn, much still needs to be achieved.
On 01 August 1997, the government of
Extending the ceasefire
This last round of talks attracted a lot of media attention as it was initially scheduled to take place in
The postponement of talks and notification that they were to take place instead in Dimapur, Nagaland on the eve of the ceasefire’s expiration came therefore as a great surprise. For the first time in fifty years, Indian and Naga representatives were to meet in a Naga city.
The talks’ immediate concern was the extension of the ceasefire, set to expire on 01 August 2007. Many in the international community and civil society feared that two days would not suffice to find an agreement on a dispute parties had failed to settle over ten years of negotiations. UNPO appealed therefore to the President of India Smt. Prathiba Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the NSCN-IM [the Naga representative organization] urging them to prolong the ceasefire in order to secure a context of peace within which further negotiations could be pursued.
In a joint statement issued on 31 July 2007, the Indian Government and the NSCN-IM explained that “[a]fter reviewing the status of the talks […], it was decided to extend the ceasefire indefinitely, […] subject to progress in the talks”. This represents a major development, as until now, ceasefire extensions have come only in limited increments ranging from 6 to 12 months. The decision to cease hostilities indefinitely is a clear indication, from both parties, of an intention to rule out the option of warfare entirely, offering hope that an agreement is now within reach.
Turning the Page on a Troubled Past
While talks focused mainly on the modalities of the ceasefire’s extension, the parties also agreed on the next steps of their dialogue. As reported by newspaper The Hindu, Mr. Padmanabhaiah, head of the Indian delegation, was rather optimistic after this “free and frank” discussion with the Nagas: “[N]ow [..] we do not have to meet just to extend the ceasefire. We will now see better days”. Both sides agreed to set up legal commissions with a mandate to look into the Indian constitution as well as the draft Naga constitution and to come up with concrete proposals on the future of Nagalim.
Mr. Isak Chishi Swu, Chairman of the NSCN-IM and head of the Naga delegation, found the Indian representatives serious and told UNPO that he was hopeful.
The NSCN-IM delegation acknowledge the difficulties raised by the Naga claims: the territory of historical Nagalim is greater than that of the current state of Nagaland, and there are also other Indian states party to the dispute (
UNPO welcomes the commitment to non-violence affirmed by both parties and encourages a constructive spirit in forthcoming negotiations focussed on the future of Nagalim, in order to reach a just and viable settlement to the Indo-Naga dispute.