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Bougainville inspires Nagas

Guwahati, March 31: A delegation from Nagaland recently visited Papua New Guinea to study the famous Bougainville peace process, which the militant NSCN(I-M) believes can be the model for a solution to the Naga impasse.

Confirming this, a source in Nagaland said the eight-member delegation was led by senior NSCN (I-M) functionary Angelus Shimreh. Two members of the Netherlands-based NGO Kreddha, involved in conflict resolution in East Timor, Bougainville and Tibet, were part of the team. The tour ended last week.

The source said the delegation met representatives of all the parties involved in the Bougainville peace process to share their experiences and gather ideas that could help the Nagas arrive at a settlement with Delhi.

Bougainville, an isle on the Solomon Sea between Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, had been under German, British and Australian occupation. When Papua New Guinea gained independence in 1975, Bougainville was forcibly included in the new nation, triggering a rebellion by the islanders.

In 1988, the very year Naga insurgent leader S.S Khaplang broke away from the NSCN and formed his own group, violence in Papua New Guinea escalated to the point of war with the formation of the Bougainville Resistance Army. Two years later, Bougainville declared independence and established the Bougainville Interim Government. The Papua New Guinea government retaliated with an economic and communications blockade.

In 1994, three years before the NSCN (I-M) reached a truce with Delhi, a ceasefire agreement was signed by representatives of the Bougainville Interim Government, the Bougainville Resistance Army and Papua New Guinea. A peace accord in 2001 between Papua New Guinea and Bougainville paved the way for a referendum on independence and gave Bougainville an autonomous government.

The first elections to the autonomous government of Bougainville were conducted on June 15, 2005. But the region is still striving for complete autonomy.

“The problems of the people of Bougainville were similar to that of the Nagas and that is why the delegation had gone there to study the evolution of peace,” a leader of the Naga Hoho, said over phone.

The delegation was in Bougainville for a week.

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