The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Flicker of light for Naga firefighters

Bangkok, July 29: Nine years after they entered into a ceasefire agreement, Indian and Naga negotiators have agreed on a broad framework to define a relationship that could end the Naga insurgency.

The operative part of the framework proposes that the two sides jointly analyse the Indian Constitution to decide which parts of it will apply, not apply or apply with modifications to the Nagas.

This is, however, proposed to be done only after agreeing to the basic principles underlying the framework.

“We think this is a good start,” said Thuingaleng Muivah, general secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah). He, however, pointed out that both sides still had some problems with the framework.

The two sides began informal discussions today, addressing these reservations to refine the framework. The framework itself is the brainchild of Michael Van Walt, the Dalai Lama’s legal adviser and head of the Dutch NGO, Kreddha.

While one part of the framework specifies the underlying principles, the other deals with the procedure of defining the relationship.

Among the basic principles that have been proposed is that the relationship would be “new and unique”, recognising the uniqueness of Naga history; that it would be based on asymmetric federalism (different from that existing between any Indian state and the Union); and that all elements of the relationship would be defined by an agreement between the two sides.

While the agreement would set out the division of competencies between the Union of India and Nagaland, its substantive details would be incorporated within the Constitutions of both India and Nagaland.

The settlement would be reached after analysing the structure of the Indian Constitution to demarcate subjects or competencies to be managed separately by the Centre, by Nagaland and jointly by both.

A separate Naga Constitution has been proposed, which would make “a reference to the Constitution of India”. The Constitution of Nagaland would be set “within the framework of the Constitution of India” and it is proposed that this would be done “in a separate chapter”.

These principles, proposed by Kreddah, have not been accepted by the Indian negotiators yet. The NSCN (I-M) also sees in them an attempt to incorporate them within the Indian Union. But both sides seem keen to take the process forward by finding a common approach. “Notwithstanding the Government of India’s reservations, the only way forward is this framework,” insisted a source.

Indian negotiators are objecting to the repeated reference to the term “new and unique” while describing the relationship, saying that calling it “unique” should be enough. They do not want “asymmetric federalism” to be accepted as a principle as it would amount to prejudging the outcome of the negotiations.

Their strongest objection is to the statement that the Naga Constitution would make a “reference” to the Indian Constitution. “What does reference mean' This must be changed,” an Indian negotiator said.

The Indian side is being led by Union minister of state Oscar Fernandez. It comprises minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office Prithviraj Chauhan, minister of state for home S. Raghupathy and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s special representative K. Padmanabhaiah.

The team, quite understandably, wants to emphasise the operative part. The Nagas do not want to give up on the principles.

“The two sides should start with the exercise of analysing the Constitution article by article to see what will apply, not apply or apply with modification to the Nagas. Then we can decide where to put what applies to the Nagas ' in a separate Constitution, in a separate chapter or annexure to the Constitution or in an expanded Article 371 (A),” a source said.

The NSCN (I-M) wants a separate Constitution while Delhi wants to push for expanding the existing provisions.

“To accept a discussion on all issues is realistic on India’s part. Whatever is acceptable, we will accept. Whatever is not acceptable, we will not. But to start with the framework is not bad,” Muivah asserted.

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