Kohima/Imphal, Feb. 1: Kept on tenterhooks for months, Nagaland heaved a sigh of relief as Delhi and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) extended the ceasefire between them for another six months in Bangkok yesterday.
“It is a welcome development, particularly at this critical juncture when non-extension of the ceasefire could have led to serious consequences both socially and politically,” chief minister Neiphiu Rio said in a statement late last evening.
The eight-and-a-half year-old truce was in jeopardy when the Naga militant group insisted on a three-month extension only. The two sides, however, signed an agreement extending the ceasefire for another six months hours before the previous one expired.
Rio congratulated the Centre and the NSCN (I-M) for displaying “sagacity and maturity” in dealing with the sensitive issue.
The chief minister reiterated his government’s policy of “equi-closeness” to the warring Naga militant factions and said he would surely step down from power, as promised earlier, to pave the way for an “alternative arrangement” in the event of a settlement between the NSCN (I-M) and Delhi. Hailing the agreement, M. Vero, president of Naga Hoho ' the apex organisation of the Naga tribes ' said a six-month extension was better than nothing.
The Naga leader said the pressure to keep the talks on track was greater on the Centre. “The pressure from the people here seems clearly on the Centre. The government of India is the larger party so they should take the risk. They cannot expect the minor party to take risks.”
The former parliamentarian, who was awarded the Padmashree this year, said if the two negotiating parties kept looking for mistakes in each other, not much could be achieved.
Naga student organisations also welcomed the extension of truce.
In Manipur, the United Naga Council said the onus was now on both Delhi and the NSCN (I-M) to quickly take the dialogue forward. “Eight years (of ceasefire and talks) is too long a period. We have already made it very clear to the Centre that a solution must not be delayed further,” its president, Puni Modoli, said.
The United Committee of Manipur (UCM), which is spearheading the movement against the integration of Naga-inhabited areas, also welcomed the truce extension but said it should be kept confined to Nagaland.
On the joint statement by Delhi and the NSCN (I-M) that “it was agreed to reactivate and make effective mechanisms to address all ceasefire issues”, UCM leader DhirenYengkokpam said.