No breakthrough likely in Naga peace talks before next year’s Assembly polls

Nagaland along with two other northeastern states – Meghalaya and Tripura – will go to the polls in February next year, but there is no remote chance of any breakthrough in the decades old Naga peace talks before the elections, a top government source said on Wednesday.

While the Nagaland government, different political parties, NGOs as well as civil society groups have been demanding for an early solution to the decades old Naga political issue, dominant Naga group NSCN-IM remains firm that without meeting the demand for a separate Naga flag and constitution, the vexed issue will not be resolved.

The NSCN-IM’s demand was earlier rejected on a number of occasions by former government interlocutor and then Nagaland Governor, R.N. Ravi.

A top government source said that no breakthrough is likely to be achieved in the ongoing Naga peace talks before the Assembly elections next year.

“Naga negotiators have returned to Kohima from New Delhi without any breakthrough and the talks are likely to resume only after the festive season (Christmas),” the source told IANS on condition of anonymity.

He said the Nagaland government has already told the Naga groups and all the stakeholders that if a solution is not reached before the elections, the state government should not be blamed as it is only the facilitator and the ball is in the Central government’s court.

The Centre has been holding separate talks with the NSCN-IM and the working committee of Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) since 1997 and 2017, respectively.

A ‘framework agreement’ was signed with the NSCN-IM in August 2015, and the ‘agreed position’ with NNPGs in November 2017.

While NNPGs have agreed to accept a solution and continue the dialogue, the NSCN-IM has remained firm on its demand for a separate flag and constitution for the Nagas, which has been delaying a final solution.

Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio recently said that the state remained backward in all areas of development as compared to other states, and this was due to the unresolved Naga political issue.

“Even if the Central government and the NNPGs sign a final peace accord or settlement, there will be no real peace if the Nagas cannot act as one people,” the Chief Minister had said.

Even after over 80 rounds of talks between the Centre and the Naga groups, dominated by the NSCN-IM, there is still a stalemate over the contentious issue of separate Naga flag and constitution.

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