M A I N   N E W S

A Tribune exclusive
Naga talks in top gear; deal to be clinched in Bangkok
Swati Chaturvedi

New Delhi, June 28
In the words of the Prime Minister’s Principal Interlocutor “From first gear it has now moved into fourth gear”. And unlike the politician’s hyperbole it is a cautious bureaucrat, Mr K. Padmanabhiah, describing it as the first breakthrough in the five-year Naga peace process. It is now official.

As reported earlier by The Tribune, the contours of the Naga peace settlement will resemble that of a special Kashmir-type status within the Indian union.

From a demand of absolute sovereignty to the current “open mind’’ of the NSCN (I/M) which involves a “special federal relationship with India where Nagaland and India will be inseparably bound together’’ is indeed a long walk together for peace.

Sources say the accord with the Nagas will entail changes in Article 7 of the Constitution which deals with relations with the states. At present, this does not apply to Jammu & Kashmir. Articles 151 to 237, a total of 88 articles, are however, reflected in the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir. Similarly while the NSCN wants a separate constitution the government wants to settle for providing a special chapter in the Indian Constitution.

Part six of the Constitution deals with the role and powers of the Governor, the state legislature, the state judiciary and the Advocate-General of India. These provisions do not apply in Jammu and Kashmir and have been incorporated in the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution. Constitutional experts are of the view that a similar arrangement can be made with the Nagas incorporating their unique tribal culture into account either in the shape of a separate constitution like Jammu and Kashmir or as a special chapter in the Constitution.

While, the fine print of the deal will be thrashed out over the next meeting to be held in Bangkok all the midnight oil that Mr Padmanabhiah has been burning studying the constitution of India and Jammu and Kashmir has obviously borne fruit. He and the political team have obviously been able to find a “marketable solution’’. For the NSCN to accept anything short of complete independence is in the words of one of the ministers involved in the negotiations, “a remarkable breakthrough’’.

Clearly all the prayers led by Isaac Chisi Swu, a devout Christian, before the start of the meetings have paid off. Sources say the settlement will involve giving Nagaland a special status within the Indian Union. It will be largely ceremonial in nature. And, then the more than a decade-long insurgency will stop.

Speaking exclusively to the Tribune, Mr Padmanabhiah stuck a note of cautious optimism. “The talks are on track; Let us hope for the best. We have all worked hard for five years to bring about this situation,’’ he said.

The flurry of meetings after the negotiations in The Hague is a pointer that the next meeting could be the clincher. Analysts point out the magnitude of concession “from a demand of complete independence to an inseparable union with India it is a huge breakthrough.’’

According to senior officials, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s brief to the negotiators was that “the Constitution is flexible, it can accommodate them. As long as they are part of India... .’’

The Naga blueprint may well provide a pointer to other separatist problems.

— The writer is an anchor with Janmat TV and writes regularly for The Tribune.





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