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Centre initiates talks with Arunachal, Manipur on Naga political issue

The Government of India has re-started the process of talks with the state governments of Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur to settle the administrative issues to pave the way for the signing of an agreement for settlement of Naga political issues in September. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah are fully aware of the day to day developments in the peace process.

Highly placed sources in the Government of India informed that the Centre is keen on signing an agreement by taking all stakeholders on board by September and it is unlikely that the time frame would be extended further.

Sources said that initially, the Government was planning to sign the agreement with the Naga rebel groups by October 31 last year, but the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (I-M) sought more time to settle a few minor issues and to finalize the draft of the agreement. The Centre then agreed to accept the request and decided to sign the agreement early this year. But the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic delayed the process and the Government is firm on completing the process by September.

Also read: Nagaland: Centre-NSCN (IM) negotiations under rough weather, says Former PM H D Gowda

Sources said that the Government has already rejected the demand for inclusion of territories of neighbouring states as a part of the agreement, but two autonomous councils would be formed in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur under the provisions of Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India. The Centre has started talking with the Governments of Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur to settle the administrative issues regarding formation of the Councils and to demarcate the areas of the councils. Though the Centre’s interlocutor RN Ravi had series of talks with the Governments of both the states, the Centre had to step in directly to settle the administrative issues, sources added.

Sources said that no substantive issue is left to be discussed with the Naga rebel groups and only the issues like surrender of weapons, rehabilitation of the members of the outfits etc are to be finalized.

Sources said that the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), an umbrella body of seven militant groups, has agreed on all the major issues and the body is ready to sign the agreement. But the leadership of the NSCN (I-M) is still raising some minor issues, which delayed the process.

It may be mentioned here that the NSCN (I-M) also raised some allegations against the Centre’s interlocutor RN Ravi, who is also the Governor of Nagaland and termed him as “autocratic” and “arrogant”.

However, it is unlikely that the Centre would appoint new interlocutor at this juncture when the talks are in final stage. On his part, Ravi reportedly informed the NSCN leadership that if they feel any major issue is left to be discussed, they would have to inform him formally for talks.

Sources also said that both the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister are fully aware of every step of talks and all decisions are taken by the interlocutor with their approval. The Prime Minister is also keen on ensuring that the peace agreement is signed by not only the leaders of the rebel groups but by other stakeholders including the leaders of all the Naga tribal groups.

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