On 25 July 1997, the United Front government headed by IK Gujral told Parliament that his government had signed a ceasefire agreement with NSCN-IM leaders (at that time the outfit’s chairman Isak Swu was in Bangkok).
When MPs pressed for details of its terms and conditions, Gujral refused to divulge them. Within two weeks of the ceasefire coming into force (1 August), the NSCN-IM leaders claimed the Centre had agreed “in principle” to include all Naga-inhabited areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur.
Delhi neither confirmed nor denied this. All this because the contents of the agreement were never made public. Strangely, successive governments did not find it necessary to clear the doubts about the ceasefire jurisdiction and defuse mounting tensions between Nagas and Manipuris.
On 3 August 2015, the Narendra Modi government’s interlocutor for negotiations, RN Ravi, signed the “Framework Naga Peace accord” at the Prime Minister’s residence. Then Nagaland chief minister TR Zeliang and some of his colleagues were also present. A historic moment indeed considering that it was achieved after several rounds of talks lasting as long as 18 years. But in this case also the contents were not spelt out, giving rise to suspicion that the Modi government had a trick up its sleeve ~ like acceptance or rejection of the Nagas’ demand for a ‘Greater Nagaland’.
Before the Manipur Assembly election last month, several BJP leaders, including the Prime Minister, visited Imphal, and taking advantage of the “framework” deal, sought Meitei voters’ favours, telling them they need not worry about their territorial integrity being in danger, and convinced them that there was no mention of Naga integration in the “framework” accord.
Muivah, who had been a silent spectator to all this, dropped a bombshell claiming the Centre, in fact, has accepted the outfit’s demand for Greater Nagaland. The Modi government is firm there is no such decision.
Ravi himself has said in no uncertain terms that being the main signatory he knows better and there is no mention of the Nagas’ demand in the “framework” pact.
There is little doubt about finding a solution to what amounts to a political issue ~ it has obviously been taken care of in the “framework” fold ~ but one cannot see a final solution coming without taking into consideration the NSCN-IM's dogged determination to achieve Greater Nagaland. The Modi government finds itself between two stools. And a final decision has to be made sooner or later. So how much longer can the Centre walk the tightrope?