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Modi govt signs 'historic' peace treaty with Naga rebels NSCN (IM)

Centre and the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) faction on Monday signed a landmark peace accord in the presence of the Prime Minister, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval by the outfit's leader T Muivah and government's interlocutor RN Ravi at the PM's residence in New Delhi to end animosity and usher into a new era of peace.

While government’s interlocutor for Naga Peace Talks, RN Ravi inked the document on behalf of the government of India, NSCN (IM) chairman Isak Chishi Swu and general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah were the signatories on behalf of the Naga organisation. The signing of the agreement, which happened at the Prime Minister's official residence 7 RCR, was preceded by a dramatic announcement by Modi on Twitter which sent the media and the social media into a tizzy.

The signing of the pact is the culmination of over 80 rounds of negotiations that spanned 16 years with first breakthrough in 1997 when ceasefire agreement was sealed.

While the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isaac-Muivah) is the biggest Naga rebel group which has been maintaining the ceasefire, another faction led by SS Khaplang continues to indulge in violence and was believed to be behind the deadly attack on army in Manipur in June that left 18 soldiers dead and 18 injured.

 Modi govt signs historic peace treaty with Naga rebels NSCN (IM)

Prime Minister M Narendra Modi. Reuters

It was not immediately clear whether the agreement meets the main demand of NSCN(IM) for integration of all Naga-inhabited areas in the North East across Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. Details and execution plan within this framework agreement will be released shortly, official sources said after the accord in which Doval played the central role.

Describing the accord as "historic", Modi said, "Today, we mark not merely the end of a problem, but the beginning of a new future."

"This agreement will end the oldest insurgency in the country. It will restore peace and pave the way for prosperity in the North East. It will advance a life of dignity, opportunity and equity for the Naga people, based on their genius and consistent with the uniqueness of the Naga people and their culture and traditions," PM Modi said after witnessing the signing of the accord.

After assuming power in May 2014, the Prime Minister on a number of occasions, including during visits to the North East, articulated his vision to transform the North East and attached the highest priority to peace, security, connectivity and economic development in the region. This has also been at the heart of the government’s foreign policy, especially ‘Act East’ Policy, the Prime Minister said.

"I have the deepest admiration for the great Naga people for their extraordinary support to the peace efforts. I am deeply impressed with the unique culture and way of life of Naga people, their courage is legendary. Unfortunately, the Naga problem has taken so long to resolve, because we did not understand each other, it's a legacy of British rule," PM Modi said.

"The Naga political issue had lingered for six decades, taking a huge toll on generations of our people," the Prime Minister said in an apparent reference to the violence which has claimed over 3000 lives since Independence.

Before the agreement was signed, Modi spoke to leaders of various parties including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress' Mallikarjun Kharge, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, BSP's Mayawati, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.

He also spoke to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, her Tamil Nadu counterpart J Jayalalithaa besides the Nagaland Governor Padmanabha Acharya and Chief Minister TR Zeliang. He also called up DMK leader M Karunanidhi and JD(S) leader HD Deve Gowda.

"Today’s agreement is a shining example of what we can achieve when we deal with each other in a spirit of equality and respect, trust and confidence; when we seek to understand concerns and try to address aspirations; when we leave the path of dispute and take the high road of dialogue. It is a lesson and an inspiration in our troubled world," the Prime Minister said at the signing ceremony.

Terming the six-decade-old Naga problem as a contribution of the colonial rule, he said, "it is one of the tragedies of Independent India that we have lived with this legacy."

He said there were not many like Mahatma Gandhi, "who loved the Naga people and sensitive to their sentiments. We have continued to look at each other through the prism of false perceptions and old prejudices."

Welcoming the agreement, Muivah hoped that the peace treaty will be a harbinger of peace in Nagaland and end decades of bloodshed.

"Under PM Modi, we have come close to understand each other and worked out a new relation between the two parties. Nagas will forever remember you for your statesmanship," Muivah said.

The NSCN(IM) second-in-command also recalled how Mahatma Gandhi loved the Naga people and the support the group got from then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

"I thank God for this momentous occasion. Naga people have great respect for Mahatma Gandhi. We appreciate the statesmanship of Atal Bihar Vajpayee," Muivah said.

He mentioned that the peace moves were first initiated by the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao when the outfit gave a commitment about ceasefire. Then, the outfit leaders had held talks with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2001.

Although the government can hope for peace with the NSCN(IM), it is the NSCN(Khaplang) that has turned out to be a major headache for the Centre. In June this year, the group carried out an audacious attack on Army personnel killing 18 and injuring 15 of the 6 Dogra Regiment at Moltung in Manipur.

In the first half of this year, the NSCN(K) led by SS Khaplang a 15-year-long peace treaty with the Centre and is even spearheading the newly formed group named United Liberation Front of Western South Asia.

Apart from NSCN(K), other eight insurgent groups part of this umbrella group are United Liberation Front of Asom(Independent), Kangleipak Communist Party, Kanglei Yawol Kunna Lup, People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak, People’s Liberation Army, United National Liberation Front and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit faction).

With PTI inputs

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Updated Date: Aug 04, 2015 07:15:20 IST

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