The visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh along with UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi to Imphal, Manipur has only raised more questions about New Delhi’s intent to address not just the Naga political issue but similar problems across the Northeast region. The unfortunate thing is that when you are in Manipur, be sensitive to Meitei sentiment and when in say Assam, you do the same. And not surprisingly with the Manipur Assembly Election early next year, the Naga sentiment was the last thing on the mind of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi. Then off course Nagaland would be the last place that the PM and UPA Chairperson would want to be in because they will ‘not want to comment’ on the issue because any assurance to the Nagas may lead to an upheaval across the region. So if something has to be said on the Indo-Naga political talks, it would be unspecific and ambiguous i.e to keep every one in good humour. The latest visit of the PM and UPA Chairperson to Imphal only reinforces this theory. This is not a good sign for the future prospect of this region.
The manner in which the Government of India seems to be dilly-dallying with no clear cut political roadmap is only confirming the suspicion of people that Delhi is only using the unresolved conflict/s in the region to its advantage. In fact taking a leaf from the Naga peace process, Delhi is busy engaging with a plethora of armed groups by way of using the mechanism of Suspension of Operation or ceasefire and inviting the ‘insurgent’ outfits to the negotiating table. If the Naga experience is anything to go by, the Government of India’s ploy is to buy time by way of offering negotiation and then wearing down the armed outfits. All this would lead to more complication, creation of more factions, greater uncertainty and plain confusion. This will give Delhi the upper-hand to keep unresolved issues in abeyance for as long as it can ‘keep talking’ and giving ‘assurances’.
The Naga ceasefire for instance has been a mixed bag of sorts with cessation of hostilities with the Indian military making way for peace and normalcy to return but nevertheless the increase in extortions and faction related killings and divisions from within only creating more unwanted situation for the people. There is no doubt that having a peace process and dialogue in place is good for every one as it creates the opportunity for resolving a dispute. But unless the Government of India is able to break away from the current mold of keeping the peace but losing the political will to address the issue/s at hand, including on the Naga question, there is little hope of moving forward towards a secure future for India’s troubled northeast region. Delhi should take more serious responsibility to confront the growing crisis in the northeast region before the situation goes out of control. The numerous ceasefires or negotiations taking place in the NE region must be guided by political will and foresight on the part of the Government of India. The problem is the lack of mission and the utter failure to draw up a road map.