Mutual Trust is Key
The initial euphoria following the signing of “historic peace accord” between the government of India and the NSCN (IM) in 2015 was first spoiled by unprecedented speculations around the content of the framework agreement, before prolonged delay in bringing about a solution caused immense damage to the hope of the Nagas. Rhetoric and exchange of pleasantries between the leaders of the two parties engaged in the peace talks kept the dream of the people alive somehow for years but they say “truth cannot be hidden,” and today, it has emerged that something has gone wrong in the Naga peace process. The NSCN (IM) has lamented in a letter addressed to the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi that the talks, which was supposed to take place at the highest level in a third country sans any pre-condition, has been reduced to “a mere governor’s level.” It also said the recent changes and developments have created confusion and doubt in the minds of the people. The government of India is yet to respond to the allegation, but if true, it is unfortunate. Moves that can cause mistrust should be stopped from the bud before years of efforts to solve the issue are ruined.
Talks between two or more entities should be based on mutual trust, and it is upon this very premise that the Naga insurgent groups signed ceasefire with the Indian government in 1997 and joined the negotiating table in the hope of bringing permanent peace to the war-torn region. They risked a possible backlash from the public if something goes wrong during the course of negotiation but there was and is no better approach than peace talks to solve any issue. There has been relative peace in the region since the ceasefire was signed but people were still cynical because of past experiences. Trust deficit is visible. This is why the recent scrapping of Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir made many ask if something similar could happen to the Nagas too. The Indian officials have allayed this fear by assuring that nothing will happen to Article 371 (A) but it is now obvious that the peace process is not going as smoothly as it is supposed to be or as portrayed to the world, indicating the need to take trust-building measures.
The framework agreement, which was signed four years ago, was an outcome of numerous rounds of talks spanning over 22 years and not something that happened in a fortnight. So, it will be too costly for both the Indian government and the Nagas to let their years of effort go to waste. It is surely easier to move forward than go back to where it all started and begin again. But to arrive at a conclusion that is acceptable to both parties, mutual trust is vital. If there is no mutual trust, the talk is bound to fail; the framework agreement will get lost in translation; betrayal will lead to violence; and darkness will befall the region again.