TODAY -

On Peace Deals And Framework Agreements
The Indo-NSCN (I-M) negotiations under the scanner of international law
- Part 1 -

Laifungbam Debabrata Roy *



In the United Nation's present understanding endorsed by its member states, "it is a normative international understanding and principle today that justice is the indispensable companion of truth. The rule of law and institutional reform cannot start with a "clean slate". Understanding the patterns of past human rights violations and ending impunity for the worst violations are indispensable for successful transformative processes.

At the core of any effort to establish accountability are three indispensable and interlinked rights: the right to truth, the right to justice, and the right to an effective remedy and reparation. In order to implement these rights, a comprehensive strategy is required that involves governments and civil society and addresses gaps of knowledge, capacity and political commitment" [2].

Genocide, ethnic cleansing, conflict related crimes, crimes against humanity, and other gross violations of human rights undermine the fabric of entire societies. They can destabilize states and whole regions, threatening international peace and security.

In the aftermath of such terrible events, it is essential to establish the truth about the crimes and gross violations that took place. A people's knowledge of the history of its oppression is part of its heritage. Knowing the truth allows victims and relatives to gain a sense of closure and restores a measure of dignity.

Manipur, and indeed the entire northeast region including the press (and the studio-based TV media), is in these past weeks obsessed with the ongoing peace deal process between the government of India and the NSCN (I-M) faction of the GPRN. It is only fitting, perhaps, that arguably the "longest standing insurgency" in the world today is also the longest-standing peace negotiation process. Both are yet to conclude.

According to a recent article in the American Journal of International Law [3] , "the last fifteen years have seen a proliferation of peace agreements. Some 50 per cent of civil wars have terminated in peace agreements since 1990, more than in the previous two centuries combined, when only one in five resulted in negotiated settlement. Numerically, these settlements amount to over three hundred peace agreements in some forty jurisdictions. International standards have even begun to regulate peace agreements. United Nations guidelines, guidelines and recommendations of the secretary-general, and Security Council resolutions have all normatively addressed peace agreements: both the processes by which they are negotiated and their substance, particularly with relation to accountability for past human rights abuses."

Peace deals are essentially contracts that are increasingly becoming accountable under international law. They hold only as long as the implementation parents are committed and sincere to the contracted matters. There are many kinds of such contracts, naturally. Some are step by step deals towards a comprehensive settlement, while others are a one-time deal approach. There are overlapping characters between these many approaches. The present one under negotiation we are concerned with is more of a one-time deal approach.

The UN Peacemaker Databank, Policy Planning Unit, Department of Political Affairs, United Nations maintains a comprehensive information archive including scholarly documents on peace negotiation process and outcomes worldwide. I often wonder how many of us actually visit and explore such databanks, and try to comprehend and critique the present negotiations we are concerned with.

Though, there are no hard and fast rules about what course any negotiations will take, there are some fundamental principles that have emerged over the decades and centuries of conflicts and their resolutions across the world. Peace negotiations are almost always complicated by the internal political dynamics within the negotiating parties. The more fluid and labile the situation within the parties involved, the more fragile and ad hoc character of the process. It is important to quickly review the internal political situations within the principal entities in order to come to a better understanding about the present process, which has been underway since the last two decades.

The principal state entity is the government of India (and the secondary ones are the provincial governments of Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh). India's policy approach towards the northeast region and its peoples has undergone several trajectory changes over the past six decades. However, every trajectory of policy thrust has not been totally replaced by a new approach. These old policy perspectives continue to linger on in the corridors of power and in the fat dossiers of the ministries and departments.

Staring from the exoticised, ethnological "cultural" approach of the Indo-British Nehruvian era, the policy paradigm has shifted towards a heavily weighted "security" orientation, particularly after the Indo-Chinese War of the early 60s. Law and order maintenance by every means of power was the underlying formula. This security paradigm was gradually inlaid with the integrationist and "political" approach, with the view that the peoples of the region need to be integrated and assimilated into India, the nation.

The heavy-handed security paradigm in action was in danger of further alienating the already disgruntled peoples of the region; there was a serious gap in political representation and visibility. Development became the new mantra soon. The overall neglect and underdevelopment of the region was argued to be main reasons behind the political unrest and growing insurgencies.

However, the older perceptions and prejudices lingered on till present times. In a very simple illustration, we can see the old colonial patriarchal attitude in the various media photos of visiting political leaders dressed up in tribal costumes, and being welcomed by singing and dancing ethnic peoples in traditional clothes. If one looks in detail at these media handouts, we can also see the "security" apparatus quite visibly present in the form of uniformed and non-uniformed armed guards and personnel.

Furthermore, the integration and political paradigms are also visible as we also see the local representatives, the elected legislators and national bureaucracy all together on the same platform. Look again, and you will see the smartphones and laptops, the tablets at work, and backdrop banner announcing tourist, international trade and development themes. This completes the overall picture of the muddled northeast region, neither here nor there. The political situation in India is in a state of transition.

The rapid shift from the stable left of centre to an unstable far right wing government has also impacted on the region. State governments in the region are necessarily the biggest pawns in the tactical moves of the chess game in this geopolitically sensitive region. The central government, itself, is under various stresses and threats internal and external.

The national economic scenario, the situation of employment, and the state of our manufacturing industry and small or informal enterprises are all in a dismal shape. Depression and pessimism is setting in gradually, while more new festivities and festivals are devised and unworkable aid packages are announced to shore up this somber mood descending among the people.

To be continued......

References:

[1] https://unchronicle.un.org/article/establishing-effective-accountability-mechanisms-human-rights-violations

[2] Bell (2006) Peace Agreements: Their Nature and Legal Status. American Journal of International Law; published online: 27 February 2017

The author is presently the President of the Elders' Council of the Centre for Organisation Research & Education (CORE), Manipur, India. He is an experienced national and international policy analyst. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and not of CORE.


* Laifungbam Debabrata Roy wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at roy(DOT)laifungbam(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on November 21, 2017.


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