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September hope for talks

- NSCN-IM, Centre review proposals

Kohima, July 20: Talks between the Centre and the NSCN (Isak-Muivah), held last week after a gap of eight months, are likely to enter a decisive stage in September.

Both sides are now focussed on reviewing each other’s proposals.

The last round of talks was held in November 2013.

An NSCN (I-M) source said the Centre has tabled its proposal before the representatives of the NSCN led by its chairman Isak Chishi Swu and general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah who said they might agree to 70 per cent of the suggestions.

The outfit’s sources said the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is serious about resolving the over 70-year-old Naga issue.

The NSCN (I-M) has not disclosed the contents of the proposals but said the Centre has accepted a “shared sovereignty” though did not elaborate how the Centre was interpreting it.

The outfit has climbed down from the demand of total sovereignty to a federal relationship with New Delhi — in other words a “shared sovereignty”, taking into account the current global political scenario.

Currently, Ajit Lal, former Intelligence Bureau special director and chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, is leading the Centre’s team that comprises officials from the PMO and the Union home ministry.

Lal has been participating in Naga talks for the past couple of years and is familiar with the Naga issue.

The NSCN (I-M) said it would brief Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue and apprise him of the need to expedite the peace process.

Sources said the Centre and the NSCN (I-M) have been discussing flag, currency, foreign and home affairs, security of Nagalim (Nagaland) and decommissioning of the Naga army, among others.

Asked whether the outfit is seeking a solution similar to that of Kurdistan in Iraq and Boungainville in Papua New Guinea, an outfit insider said it might not be on that formula. Kurdistan enjoys de facto sovereignty with its own security forces to oversee its boundaries. The Iraqi government does not have much say in the affairs of the Kurdistan autonomous region.

Representatives of Naga civil societies and the NSCN (I-M) had even toured Boungainville to study the interim arrangement made between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the separatists in Boungainville region. The outfit has been consulting with international constitution experts.

Since signing of truce in 1997, there has been over 70 rounds of talks, the main issue being the integration of contiguous Naga areas.

NSCN (I-M) sources said before signing any agreement they will have a series of consultations with the Naga people so that it does not become another dead agreement. But it is doubtful whether other factions would accept the impending agreement. However, it was understood that the NSCN (I-M) would try to take other factions on board the peace agreement.

Currently, the NSCN (Khole-Kitovi) and Federal Government of Nagaland (Singnyu) are members of the ongoing reconciliation process with the NSCN (I-M), despite hiccups at some stages. NSCN (Khaplang) supports the reconciliation process but it has stopped participating in the reconciliation meeting under the aegis of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR), headed by a renowned Baptist clergyman, Rev. Wati Aier, and supported by Naga organisations, church and national and international organisations.

The Centre could not implement previous accords in totality, which has generated a certain amount of doubt about inking any agreement in the future with the Union government.