Bangkok, July 17: After “a stormy meeting”, the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) has agreed to extend the ceasefire with the Indian forces for another year. An agreement to this effect is scheduled to be signed tomorrow by the chief Indian interlocutor K. Padmanabhaiah and the general secretary of the NSCN (I-M), Thuingaleng Muivah.
So heated did the arguments about extending the ceasefire become that the Naga negotiators — Muivah assisted by steering committee member R.H. Raising — invited virtually the entire top leadership of their group to the negotiating table.
Half a dozen ministers (kilonsers) of the self-styled underground government had specially flown in to Bangkok to be available at hand for consultations. They include A.K. Lungalang (in charge of home), T.T. Among (deputy finance minister), Q. Tuccu (defence) and steering committee members Zarshe Nguthe, Puni Mao and Tokhim.
The chairman of the NSCN (I-M), Isak Chisi Swu, could not participate in the ceasefire extension talks as he is in the US.
The contentious issues about the ceasefire extension related to those disturbing the peace process, the use of the Disturbed Areas Act and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and integration of all Naga-inhabited areas.
The NSCN (I-M) expressed unhappiness over the role of its rival faction led by S.S. Khaplang, believed to be close to former Nagaland chief minister S.C. Jamir. The Khaplang group, they claim, is financed by the government and its activities are conducted from Assam Rifles camps. They said together they were sabotaging the peace process.
Delhi has apparently agreed to deal with all those disturbing the peace process effectively — whether they are the security forces or other insurgent groups.
About the withdrawal of the disturbed areas and armed forces acts, NSCN sources said they were “not asking for the revocation of the two Acts but only their withdrawal.”
But Delhi has already decided to continue with the Disturbed Areas Act in Nagaland. The Indian negotiators were asked to explain how the ceasefire could continue while the Disturbed Areas Act was in operation.
The Nagas, however, agreed not to press this argument beyond a point. Instead, they extracted a promise from Delhi that this situation would not be allowed to continue and the Act would be withdrawn gradually.
About the integration of all Naga-inhabited areas, the NSCN leaders seem to have appreciated the sensitivities associated with the issue. With the monsoon session of Parliament beginning next week, if the issue is raised to a pitch now, it could have untoward consequences in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
“While it is true that the Indian government cannot bypass its institutions and systems, the integration issue cannot also be ignored,” an NSCN source said.
However, he said: “We know there are no easy answers on how to move ahead in the direction of integration. But India should recognise the legitimacy of the aspiration of the Nagas to live as one.” The Nagas believe without this there can be no peace. Delhi apparently has agreed that all substantive issues would be addressed seriously.
NSCN sources said the ceasefire was not being extended “out of fear of the Indian armed forces” but because they believed in the promise made by Delhi to deal effectively with the issues raised. “If New Delhi fails to keep its word, we are free to walk out of the peace process — irrespective of the ceasefire.”