On Peace Deals And Framework Agreements
The Indo-NSCN (I-M) negotiations under the scanner of international law
- Part 2 -

Laifungbam Debabrata Roy *

As for the other principal, the NSCN (I-M) is a non-state armed group originally that later began to take on state-like characteristics. Presently, under its leadership, a broad range of "civil administration" structures have been created in the "Naga-inhabited" areas of the region. However, this group is not the only one existing or operating in this region's sector.

One of the primary and enduring challenges that this group has been struggling with is the question of forging a broad political and socio-cultural amalgamation of the many tribe-affiliated Naga groups under its acceptable control. A constant campaign and political propaganda process has been underway for several decades to achieve this goal.

Some significant headway has been made in this direction, as well as some setbacks. After the demise of one of its key leaders, the closely guarded leadership of this group increasingly recognised that a broad aligned alliance among the Naga peoples and organisations is an imperative that needs to be achieved quickly in order to make a final push towards the success of a peacefully negotiated final settlement. The demise of another key leader that of the other major Naga non-state armed group - the NSCN (K), the "Naga integration" process entered another delicate ground.

The political paradigms that the NSCN (I-M) have adopted over the decades of its existence have also evolved over the period. However, as with the government of India's policy developments, the paradigms adopted by this group are also overlapping. The original paradigm of absolute "self-determination" has become modified by several other imperatives and influences. These have included, importantly, the discourse of human rights and humanitarian law, political reconciliation among the different Naga tribes and their representative civil society organisations, globalization and trade, and most recently, political participation.

The cessation of hostilities with a ceasefire agreement refers to a temporary stoppage of war or any armed conflict for an agreed-upon timeframe or within a limited area according to the United Nations framework. This is an interesting additional perspective as it includes a time-frame and a "limited area", in addition to the question of accountability for past human rights abuses.

All these issues are extremely relevant to the on-going "peace process" in our neighbourhood as they focus on procedural elements of the negotiations. The crux of the issues in the Indo-NSCN (I-M) negotiations throws up critical procedural issues regarding the UN framework of human rights, with particular emphasis on accountability.

In the present discussions in the region that are hogging space in the media and civil society arenas, the question of accountability of the negotiating principal entities has received very scant attention. This is a matter of great concern. In the on-going quagmire of public debate and discussions, the core question of past human rights abuses by the negotiating parties have received no attention. This vital issue of justice, within the human rights framework seems to be ignored. The question is how this issue has been dropped comprehensively when hundreds, if not thousands, of families are seeking justice.

India is a member of the United Nations with obligations under international law. India cannot legitimately feign ignorance about the extent and causes of gross violations committed under its watch. Representations of the Naga peoples, in many garbs, have also approached the UN for justice from the 90s. The UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP) have received significant petitions regarding the rights of the Naga peoples to their self-determination. This is an unalienable fact. Other international forums have received targeted attention to this issue over the past three decades. The question of accountability is somehow side-lined in all this.

The temptation to suspend justice in exchange for promises to end a conflict in the Indo-NSCN (I-M) peace negotiations seems to have ignored the past injustices and abuses. A comprehensive peace deal is the logical objective of the present negotiations between the Indian government and the NSCN (I-M). This is very clearly enunciated in the numerous media exercises by both the principal entities. But the "crossroad" that has been identified is not limited nor confined to the principal organisational entities' concerns. That perception is slowly sinking in at this 11th hour, further complicating the negotiations.

The official entry of the so-called NNPGs (Naga National Political Groups) into the ring of contest is a new development that has been mooted for a long time. More players are also expected in the increasingly crowded theatre. The recent position adopted by some prominent civil society groups in Manipur openly exerts new pressures on the original primary negotiators.

It is a clear view now that the questions of justice and accountability must take an increasingly central role in the negotiations. Both the principal entities have significantly been tight-lipped about their positions on the future role and status of these new entities in the on-going negotiations. The government of India has made a new gambit; that much is clear.

A "framework agreement", according to current international understanding, is an agreement that broadly agree upon the principles and agenda upon which the substantive issues will be negotiated. Framework agreements are usually accompanied by protracted negotiations that result in Annexes that contain the negotiated details on substantive issues, or are a series of subsequent agreements that are sometimes collectively known as the "Comprehensive Agreement". The time for the disclosure of these subsequent agreements is running out.

A secretive, closely guarded, negotiation at this crucial stage can open up new arenas of conflicts that seriously jeopardise the envisaged 'comprehensive agreement' of the long-drawn Naga problematique. In the end, a just and honourable settlement may become yet another dream too far.

Foregoing accountability cannot result, in the short- or long-term future, in the hoped-for benefits of the on-going talks.

The time for the arrival of a "comprehensive framework agreement" may be coming very soon. Such a new comprehensive framework would necessarily take into account a new set of issues that may have been omitted, by political design or plain ignorance, in the current framework. The new NNPG negotiating players are expected, out of the newly realised imperatives, to introduce wider factors that have not been considered in full in the past talks.

Peace is not about forgetting. The United Nations framework on peace and security is about accountability. Ignoring accountability may encourage the principal parties to commit more abuses. Lasting peace is about justice, for all. That involves all relevant parties to negotiate for a lasting peace. A comprehensive settlement for an honourable end of the long-lasting Naga problem must have guarantees of security for the region. Such guarantees must be effective and fair.

In this long-lasting negotiation between the Government of Indian and the NSCN (I-M), the mechanism for such guarantees is invisible. It may be even non-existent in the "framework agreement", with avoidable tragic future consequences.


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
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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