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Northeast militancy: Never fear to negotiate to end insurgency

The tough response of the government must now be leveraged well to become part of an overall strategy to deliver peace in the north-eastern region.

ht view Updated: Jun 18, 2015 03:24 IST
RS Pandey
RS Pandey
Nagaland,Manipur,Indian Army

The government has reacted decisively to the ambush in Manipur, perpetrated by the NSCN-K and its allied insurgent groups. This bold move to enter Myanmar in hot pursuit of the militants has unnerved them. As the defence minister, Manohar Parrikar, put it, this move signals a departure from the past approach and attitude of the establishment. A very clear and wide-reaching message that violence perpetrated on the establishment will not be tolerated has been sent.

This has repercussions on other insurgent groups as well. However, a key lesson must not be overlooked: Non-renewal of the ceasefire between the government of India and the NSCN-K was a major event, and should have been a warning for the kind of attack witnessed recently.

That being said, recent events cannot be an end in themselves and must be put in perspective. The tough response of the government must now be leveraged well to become part of an overall strategy to deliver peace in the north-eastern region.

The Naga issue has been outstanding ever since Independence. Many such attacks have taken place and many lives have been lost. And this will come to an end only if a peaceful solution is arrived at through negotiations. There was a near breakthrough in 2012-13 when there was a meeting of minds between New Delhi and the NSCN(IM), the largest of the Naga militant groups, on core issues. But the government of the day could not take a final call towards the end of its tenure, crippled as it was by scams and an overall negative ambience surrounding its functioning.

The present government has shown decisiveness, but with peace talks on for nearly one and a half decades, patience on all sides is fast running out. The need of the hour is an early resolution to talks with the NSCN(IM), followed by talks with other Naga militant groups. Not just that, any solution will have to have buy-in from different sections of Naga society. That indeed will be something to really cheer about.

The end of Naga insurgency will hopefully create an atmosphere that will pave the way for resolving issues related to other insurgent groups in the region, as well as the whole country.

Any future policy-framework to address the issue needs a sincere appreciation of the historical perspective, the prevailing psychological ambience and socio-economic realities. Insurgency can, and must end, the militants must give up weapons and the people must experience good governance.

The ‘Act East’ policy must be seen on the ground to build people’s faith and confidence. But for that to happen, all sides must start talking again.

Like John F Kennedy once said, “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”

RS Pandey, former chief secretary, Nagaland, led the Nagaland peace talks in 2010-2013. The views expressed are personal.

First Published: Jun 17, 2015 23:00 IST