Nagaland Accord and Kashmir

IN a development that has been marked with particular interest in Valley,  the centre announced  a historic peace accord with Nagaland’s insurgent group Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah). 

Significance of the event can be gauged from the fact that the accord  was announced at an event at 7 Race Course Road in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Rajnath Singh, other government officials and NSCN(I-M) chief Thuingaleng Muivah along with other leaders of the group. Though it is only a framework agreement and the details are still  confidential, the accord is no small breakthrough. For one, it goes against New Delhi’s reputation as inherently status quoesque in its approach to address longstanding political disputes.  And this reputation is something that has been attested to by as leading South Asian experts as Stephen Cohen and even  C Raja Mohan. In one of his pieces, Raja Mohan wrote that India knows “the devious diplomatic art of taking its interlocutors on a merry-go-round”.  If we look back at the history of the past seven decades, New Delhi has hardly engaged in a productive dialogue with the leaders of the ongoing separatist political movements across the country. The talks have been a mechanism to draw the leaders into engagement  and persuade them to settle for a solution within the Indian mainstream. Even the exceptions to the rule like Rajiv-Longawal Accord  to address the  raging insurgency in Punjab in eighties was on New Delhi terms. But before that accord could be implemented, Longawal was assassinated by those opposing the agreement. Will the accord with NSCN (IM)  be any different? Unlikely. 

Short of sovereignty, the longstanding Naga demand  has been for Greater Nagalim   comprising “all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas”, along with Nagaland. This included several districts of Assam, Arunachal and Manipur, as also a large tract of Myanmar. But this cannot be a part of the accord as the neighboring states are unlikely to cede even an inch of their land to Nagalim. However, for now, the significance of the accord is not its practicability but in the event itself. And of course in its photo-op. And this is something that holds some appeal to us in Kashmir. Does Nagaland example mean that India under Modi has the confidence and the purposefulness to address the country’s vexed decades-old conflicts? Too premature to tell. But we in Kashmir would certainly want the centre to be similarly engaged on Kashmir. So far the dialogue with Kashmiri leaders has been little more than a merry-go-round.  So has been the engagement with Pakistan. 

There is a seven decade long history of  pointless efforts to find a durable settlement to Kashmir. It is because a sincere urge to resolve Kashmir never underpinned those efforts and every dialogue was geared to solve Kashmir on New Delhi’s terms. Nagaland acccord may not give a hope but it is a reminder that breakthroughs are possible in the given political paradigm. And Modi with his absolute majority is in an eminent position to move with confidence on lingering old disputes like Kashmir dating from Partition. The question is whether the statesmanship required for resolving Kashmir will be exhibited by the new leader in New Delhi. 

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