Comparing Sri Lanka Tamil Eelam Negotiations with Nagalim

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The latest rounds of talks have been held since 1997 with Indian interlocutor Ravi, the current Governor of Nagaland. Nothing tangible has come out in 23 years of negotiations

 Syed Ali Mujtaba | Clarion India

As a student of South Asia, I have watched the negotiations in Sri Lanka between Tamil Elam chief negotiator Anton Balasingham and Eric Solheman, the Norwegian negotiator for the Sinhala group. In between the talks, there were Elam wars and IPKF and a whole lot of twist and turns in the Tamil Eelam drama. This story finally ended with a military victory of Sinhala Armed forces over LTTE.

A similar story of negotiations and an armed conflict is being watched — between Nagaland and India. While the Indian position is that Nagaland is part of India, Nagaland spokespersons say that Nagaland is a separate country. This comes out clearly after watching the interview of Thuingaleng Muivah, leader of the main insurgent group of Nagaland, the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah).

Hearing him, I have a feeling that any time, the talk will break down and India is going to take a final call on Nagaland and Muviah’s militia is going to take on Indian soldiers as was the case with the LTTE in Sri Lanka.

The Naga peace talks have been held between India and Nagaland since 1947/49 with breaking down of the talks and starting of the insurgency. This cycle is going on since India’s independence. The latest rounds of talks have been held since 1997 with Indian interlocutor Ravi, the current Governor of Nagaland. Nothing tangible has come out in 23 years of negotiations. This was made public by Naga principal spokesperson Isac Muviah.

In the interview with Karan Thapar, Muviah says Nagaland was never a part of the British territory and India has no territorial claim over Nagaland. He wants India to accept Nagaland as a separate country. He wants India to recognise a separate Naga Constitution and flag as symbols of Naga’s sovereignty. Muvia says he cannot compromise on these two issues till the last man standing.

He wants the Naga areas in Indian states of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam to be amalgamated with Nagalim or greater Nagaland. He is only ready for shared sovereignty with India but on the basis of mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty.

Now these are very hard positions that India cannot accept. The only option for India is to assert its State power and military might to officially merge Nagaland into the Indian Union. The option for Muvia is to go back to insurgency as it was the order before 1997.

The catch here is that the Naga insurgency is sustained by China and it is a new-found opportunity for China to open another front. There is also the Christian angle and the American angle to the Nagaland problem. It is the American protestant church that has converted the tribal and non-believers of any organised religion to the Christian fold. Just like backing Karan and Shan insurgents in Myanmar, the Christian world has backed Naga insurgency for the right to self-determination.

India’s muscular policy on the state of Jammu and Kashmir that unfolded on August 5, 2019 was supposed to be made operational for Nagaland as well. However, India’s strategic thinkers voted against the move; they wanted to wait and watch to find out the fall- out of the Kashmir policy which has not yet stabilised. It was further delayed due to the covid-19 pandemic.

However, now it looks that the peace talks with Nagaland are almost on the breaking point. Will the Indian home minister use the same muscular policy that it applied on J&K on August 5, 2019? Nagaland is an interesting story that is playing itself out.

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