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Truce that never ends

Bangkok, July 30: Good news, they say, often comes in pairs.

After agreeing on a broad framework to resolve the Naga issue politically, Indian and Naga negotiators are now likely to make the ceasefire irrevocable and coterminous with the peace talks.

There will be no more haggling over extending the ceasefire for six months or a year. The attempt is to make it last as long as the talks continue and a settlement is reached. The present ceasefire pact comes to an end tomorrow.

Although a new ceasefire agreement has yet to be signed, Thuingaleng Muivah, general secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), gave ample indication of what was to come.

“Since we have agreed to discuss and explore ways for a solution on the basis of an agreed framework, the process of working towards a solution will take some time. This may naturally entail a longer ceasefire, although we are yet to take a formal decision on it,” he said.

Would this mean that the ceasefire would last as long as it takes to find a solution through the talks' “This will become a matter of necessity and not one of choice,” Muivah remarked.

The idea of making the ceasefire coterminous with the talks originally came from Michael van Walt, legal adviser to the Dalai Lama and a facilitator in the peace talks. He had suggested that this was the only way to make the ceasefire irrevocable. “This way neither the NSCN (I-M) nor the government of India would have the choice of breaking the ceasefire. If the talks break down, so will the ceasefire. We were agreeable to this from the beginning,” an Indian negotiator said.

“We have to get the ceasefire extension talks every few months out of the way so that we can get into substantive talks for a solution,” he said.

On the Indian objections to the principles underlying the framework of analysing the Indian Constitution article by article, Indian negotiators said the NSCN (I-M) was being accommodative. After nearly five hours of discussions last night and the whole day today, Muivah said: “We have yet to finalise a redefined framework. But a few changes have been made and the approach to a solution has been mutually accepted.”

The Naga leader said not only the Indian Constitution, “but the Naga Constitution will also be analysed by the two sides”.

He said it was “simply not possible” for the Nagas to accept the Indian Constitution. However, he added: “We will accept the fundamental principles of the Indian Constitution such as democracy, secularism, republicanism and the protection of human rights. These are universal principles and they have been an essential part of Naga polity.”

He said the terms of the agreement would “define the relationship between the two entities”.

On whether the Nagas could have a separate Constitution, he said: “It will not be a problem to incorporate the agreement in the Indian Constitution because it will also be incorporated in our Constitution.”

The Indian negotiators have not taken a hard stand on a separate Naga Constitution.

“We are not closing the option of a separate Constitution. What we are saying is that let us begin by analysing the Constitution of India, as suggested in the agreed framework article by article and see where it takes us. After that we will see what can be done,” one of them said.

He claimed that the approach of the proposed framework had been appreciated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself.

Commending the approach of the Nagas to the agreed framework, he said: “The only way negotiators can go to the government is after a procedure has been agreed.”

That procedure has now been accepted.

“From the next round of talks, we will start the process of constitutional analysis,” Muivah said.

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