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By Oken Jeet Sandham
When the NSCN (K) unilaterally abrogated ceasefire with the government of India in March this year, nobody took it very seriously. Many in Indian side were wondering when the outfit had entered into ceasefire with the Myanmar government, while many intelligentsias felt that such truce with Myanmar government indirectly undermined Delhi’s truce with the outfit. Such attitudes coming from India side have also actually undermined the capability and integrity of the Myanmar government.
We should know that there are many insurgent organizations fighting against the Myanmar juntas for decades. The country had the notoriety of being run by the Military for decades and their administration was so fragile that it became one of the most backward and underdeveloped countries in the world. And somewhat a ray of hope started coming in when the democracy started taking over the Military government. It is a matter of shame on the part of Indian government that it being the largest democratic nation in the world terribly failed to help restore democracy in Myanmar. The Western countries played important roles in restoring democracy in Myanmar. It was remarkable that as soon as the civilian government took over the Military government, the President of the United States of America Barack Obama visited Myanmar and met Myanmar President Thein Sein and Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. It was heartening to see the joint press conference of Obama and Kyi held at her house in Yangon, Burma. Obama’s visit had literally sent a very positive message across the world and greatly motivated the hard lined Myanmar Military leaders that their (Myanmar military juntas) job was different.
On the contrary, the past Indian Primes Ministers had not tried to visit Myanmar. Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Bhutan as soon as he became Prime Minister and not Myanmar. Top brass of Indian Army would visit Myanmar mostly to discuss about the northeast insurgents. New Delhi fails to realize that democratic Myanmar is better than Military Myanmar.
Ethnic minorities make up about a third of Myanmar’s population of roughly 50 million. They mostly live in the seven states and divisions named after the Shan, Kayah, Karen, Mon, Chin, Kachin, and Rakhine ethnic groups. Now look at the fast democratic development in Myanmar and the series of positive developments taking place with various insurgent groups operating in the country. It is not only NSCN (K) that has large presence there but there are also dozens of ethnic minority insurgent groups fighting for greater autonomy or independence from the dominant ethnic Burman majority. Myanmar military have been fighting with them for decades with no solutions in sight. It is only after democratic government coming in that series of ceasefires have been declared with many of these groups. It is nothing wrong when the NSCN (K) entered into ceasefire with the Myanmar government as they have their large presence in the country, besides the outfit’s chief, SS Khaplang himself is a Myanmarese Naga. In fact, it is a blessing in disguise as such ceasefire with Myanmar government will immensely lighten the burden on Delhi. It is generally believed that the Naga issue may defy solution without the cooperation of the Myanmar government.
Soon after the unilateral abrogation of ceasefire with the Government of India, the NSCN (K) started attacking on the Indian security forces particularly Assam Rifles in Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. However, Delhi still shrugged it off as none existent without even reacting to it. However, the BJP-led NDA government’s blue-eyed boy, Kiren Rijiju started using highly unfavorable and provocative languages. He, however, denied making such statement after about one month.
Interestingly, the Center and its army did not realize of NSCN (K) and its fraternal ties with many insurgent groups in the northeast till such time when Indian army was badly attacked on June 4 last month in Manipur’s Chandel district bordering Myanmar. 18 soldiers were killed while scores were injured in the deadly attack. The incident drew worldwide attention and neighboring countries, Myanmar, Pakistan and China, sharply reacted to the subsequent statements of Indian authorities.
But in Nagaland, the situation is different which Delhi fails to realize. For Delhi, Indian army will be the answer in such a situation like the one happened in Manipur on June 4 last. The Nagas cannot afford allowing saber-rattling between the Indian army and any Naga underground groups, because they had suffered enough and experienced all sorts of tragedies due to unresolved political conflicts over half-a-century.
The TR Zeliang opposition-less government in Nagaland has hurriedly constituted the Nagaland Legislature Forum (NLF) with the objective of apprising the Central leaders to expedite the peace process with the Naga underground leaders for an early solution to the Naga issue. They are also urging the Government of India not to abrogate the ceasefire with the NSCN (K), while resolving to request the Naga Hoho and Eastern Nagaland Public Organization (ENPO) to send a delegation to meet NSCN (K) Chairman SS Khaplang for resumption of ceasefire with the Government of India as it is also the desire of the state government as well as the people of Nagaland.
During Neiphiu Rio’s regime in Nagaland, the Joint Legislature Forum of Nagaland (JLF) was formed. It was momentous in the history of the Naga Political issue when the entire 60 legislators under the banner of the JLF could boldly display a show of unprecedented unison to the Central leaders for the cause of the settlement of the Naga political issue. But sadly, they lacked the courage to influencing the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) to make their “Agenda” public. Today, the process is 18 years old. But much to the chagrin, none of the party—be it his (Rio) Government or Delhi or NSCN (IM) — could make the status of the process public.
It is still very complicated as to how NSCN (K) chief will be convinced for resumption of ceasefire with Delhi while the latter is not showing any sign for immediate resumption of ceasefire with the former. Looking at the fast emerging trend in the aftermath of the NSCN (K)’s unilateral abrogation of ceasefire and their subsequent attacks on Indian security forces, the Naga peace process appears to be more complex and grim.
Northeast people do have historical relationship with Myanmar people, besides many villages of Nagas and Manipuris are in Myanmar. It is reported that there are six Naga MPs in Myanmar while two Naga MPs in Indian side. The Myanmar army’s going against NSCN (K) in Myanmar has slim chance as these six Naga MPs will uproar. Delhi needs diplomatic channels with its counterpart in Myanmar instead of asking them to flush out NSCN (K) or any other northeastern insurgent groups from their soil.