NSCN (Khaplang), which is opposed to the deal and operates out of Myanmar, is likely to be encouraged by China
New Delhi, Aug 26 : The recent “framework” for a Nagaland Peace Accord inked on August 3, by NSCN (IM) leader Thingaleng Muihvah and the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee RN Ravi, has raised hopes for the establishment of peace and harmony in Nagaland.
Successful implementation of a Peace Accord would also benefit the neighbouring States of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, where there are Naga populations, by ending decades of insurgency and ethnic conflict. In expressing optimism about success of this Framework Accord, reference is often made to the Rajiv Gandhi-Laldenga Accord of June 30, 1986, which has brought about lasting peace, harmony and development in Mizoram. This would, however, be a simplistic assumption.
The Mizoram Accord was inked by the Mizo National Front led by Laldenga, who was the sole and undisputed leader of the Mizo uprising, in a State which is not afflicted with tribal differences and rivalries. Moreover, the Accord was signed when there were no foreign patrons or havens left for the Mizos.
The 8-point Accord clearly spelt out the extent of autonomy the Mizos would enjoy, the process for laying down arms and ammunition and measures for resettlement of underground personnel. This was combined with the conferment of full Statehood and establishment of a separate High Court for Mizoram.China angle
While the details of the recent Nagaland “framework” have not been made public, it is acknowledged that many complex issues remain to be sorted out. While the demand for a “Greater Nagaland” embracing the territories of Nagaland and Naga dominated areas in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh appears to have been given up by the NSCN (IM), the issue of Regional Councils or other such institutions for Nagas in the three neighbouring States will remain contentious, especially given the none-too-happy experiences following the establishment of a Bodoland Council in Assam.
Moreover, Naga society is afflicted by tribal rivalries and by the presence of large number of armed groups, each with its own sense of self-importance. Finally, the most powerful insurgent group after the NSCN (IM), the NSCN (Khaplang), which broke along standing cease fire agreement with New Delhi on March 7 and killed 18 Indian soldiers on July 4,remains implacably opposed to the August 3 Accord.
The NSCN (K) is predominantly Myanmar based and its cadres are trained and operate from areas in the neighbouring Sagaing Division and the Kachin State. These areas are along the borders with China, where the Myanmar Government has scant control and China now freely consorts with Indian separatist outfits.
New Delhi has to bear in mind and react imaginatively to the reality that Myanmar now faces serious problems on its borders with China’s Yunnan Province in the Shan and Kachin States. The Chinese have a cosy relationship with the Kachin Independence Army, which exercises full control of areas in Kachin State bordering China.
Ever since they were ousted by Sheikh Hasina from Bangladesh scores of members of north eastern separatist groups including the NSCN (K), ULFA, the Peoples’ Liberation of Army of Manipur and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland have taken refuge along the Myanmar-China border, in Kachin State.
These groups have now come under the umbrella of an NSCN (K) led and quite evidently Chinese backed grouping, calling itself the “United National Front of West Southeast Asia”.
As its name suggests, the grouping is exclusively India centric. We are evidently seeing a return to Chinese policies of the Maoist era, when China backed and armed separatist groups along our borders with Burma and the then East Pakistan.Importance of Myanmar
Given the policy of NSCN (K) to seek a peace accord for its people and desist from violence within Myanmar, it is unlikely that Myanmar will be in a position to respond positively to any request for the extradition of the NSCN (K) leadership. What can at best be achieved is obtaining Myanmar pressure on the Khaplang leadership to get the NSCN (K) to join the Nagaland peace process and desist from violence. The Home Ministry and needs a word of caution on this score. They should curb the propensity to seek media publicity and conduct all moves involving Myanmar, maintaining strict secrecy.
Apart from the inability of the Myanmar Government to exercise control over areas of Kachin State bordering China, where Indian insurgent groups are based and are strengthening links with China, Myanmar itself seems headed for political uncertainty, as the country heads toward elections for a new Parliament and President on November 8. The two main Parties are the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi (who is still ineligible to be elected as President by the Legislature) and the army backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), led by the Parliament Speaker and former Armed Forces Chief General (Thura) Shwe Mann.
The army establishment, in which former military ruler Senior General Than Shwe wields considerable influence, is still averse to Aung San Suu Kyi, or her Party assuming, or influencing the Presidency.
In these circumstances, both Shwe Mann, who realistically realised that his Party the military backed USDP would receive a drubbing in the elections and Suu Kyi who needed Army support to become eligible for office, appeared to be moving towards a deal, in which Su Kyi’s NLD would back a Shwe Mann bid for President, after the elections. Sensing this, President Thein Sein, with the backing of the current armed forces Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and quite evidently the former Junta Leader Senior General Than Shwe, acted decisively to marginalise Shwe Mann. While positioning himself for re-election, President Thein Sein removed Shwe Mann for the post of the Party Chief of the USDP and himself took charge of the Party. Troops of Myanmar Army positioned themselves around the offices of the USDP and the residence of Shwe Mann. The die was cast and the message sent that while Suu Kyi would enjoy respect as an elected leader, the army would resist her access to effective executive power. It remains to be seen how developments play out in Myanmar.
It is evident that in dealing with implementation of the August 3 MoU with the NSCN (IM), New Delhi will have to tread carefully internally and externally, in its relations with Myanmar.
The writer is a diplomat and former Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan