Toward a Win-Win Resolution of the Indo-Manipur Armed Conflict (IMAC)
- Part 3 -

Nongdrenkhomba Senjam *

NSCN (IM) cadres at Camp Hebron
NSCN (IM) cadres at Camp Hebron :: Pix - TSE


ROSBECA, an acronym for 'Reciprocal One-Step-Back Equitable Compromise Avenue', is the principle that an equitable compromise between the ASGoMs and the GoI can be hammered out by reciprocally taking one step back from their current stands on the vexed issue of sovereignty. But let me qualify the adjective 'equitable', by acknowledging that this article simply ignores the rightness or wrongness of one side or the other of the IMAC for the sake of neutrality.

Today India has, beyond doubt become an economic and military powerhouse. In the last two decades its geopolitical clout and international standing, fuelled by its economic growth, have swollen to such an extent that whenever India speaks, the rest of the world now strains ears to listen. Considering the rise of India in every sphere, it is just a matter of common sense to decide that the GoI is not likely to came in to the insistance of the ASGoMs on sovereignty.

That said, the ASGoMs cannot be expected to renounce their express ultimate objective of liberating Manipur. It should be noted that each ASGoM has already crossed the Rubicon by getting many a brave warrior to make the supreme sacrifice at the altar of the idea of an independent Manipur. So, no sensible person will ever expect the ASGoMs to give up their demand for sovereignty and break faith with the souls of the martyrs or leave the people of Manipur disillusioned and feeling cheated by them.

As the IMAC is centered around the issue of sovereignty, the strategies open to both sides of the IMAC for dealing with it calls for analysis, along with their corresponding pay-offs. Broadly speaking, there are two types of strategies for handling the vexed issue of sovereignty: 'Inflexible' and 'Flexible'. The rigid positions that both sides of the IMAC currently hold on the question of sovereignty represent the former type of strategy. However, it is not the former but the latter type of strategy, that is 'Flexible', which is needed to untie the Gordian knot of sovereignty.

Pay-Off Matrix Of The IMAC

With the aim of summarizing the pay-offs of the IMAC, a pay-off matrix is drawn below:

pay-off matrix

1. North-East Segment (GoI-Inflexible, ASGoMs-Flexible)

y = Forced renunciation of the primary demand of the ASGoMs for sovereignty.
s1 = Status quo, that is to say, Manipur remains a part of India as it is.

2. North-West Segment (Inflexible, Inflexible)

1st Sub-segment
p1 = Further prolongation of the IMAC.

2nd Sub-segment
p2 = Escalation of the IMAC into a mortal conflict, resulting in great losses to both sides.
x = Risk of being completely defeated.

3rd Sub-segment
p3 = Culmination of the IMAC in the complete defeat of either the GoI or the ASGoMs.

3. South-West Segment (GoI-Flexible, ASGoMs-Inflexible)

z = GoI caves in to the insistence of the ASGoMs on sovereignty.
s2 = Sovereignty, that is to say, Manipur becomes a sovereign country again.

4. South-East Segment (Flexible, Flexible)

qs2 = Quasi-status quo, i.e. Manipur remains a part of India but with several strings.
qs2 = Quasi-sovereignty, i.e. Manipur is recognised as a special Autonomous State.

It is theoretically possible to settle the vexed issue of sovereignty through (GoI-Inflexible, ASGoMs-Flexible) or its reverse strategy set. However, in either case only one side of the IMAC stands to win most or all of what is at stake. For instance, if the GoI somehow manages to get the ASGoMs to change their current stand on the issue of sovereignty and recant their common prime objective to liberate Manipur from what they call 'the colonial yoke of India' while it is still sticking to its 'Inflexible' strategy, it realizes its optimum objective of the IMAC in the form of s1, shown in the NE Segment of the pay-off matrix.

If, on the other hand, the ASGoMs somehow succeed in forcing the GoI to cave in to their demand for sovereignty, their optimum target, i.e. s2, shown in the third quadrant, is realized. Therefore, for the GoI to achieve s1, it must effect y first; and for the ASGoMs to scramble s2, they have to bring about z beforehand. But given the present circumstances of the IMAC, resolving the, crux thereof, that is the issue of sovereignty, and consequently the IMAC itself, via either of these two sets of opposite strategies is highly improbable if not impracticable.

As already noted, at present both sides of the IMAC are pursuing the same type of strategy: 'Inflexible'. As a consequence, the IMAC is currently witnessing P1 in the NW Segment, which represents the worst case scenario of the IMAC. But until the IMAC crosses the point of no return by entering the second sub-segment, there exists enough scope for both sides of the IMAC to turn back from the NW Segment if they decide so.

It is also worthy of note here that the two sides of the IMAC have no perfect foresight and their mutually exclusive prime objectives remain equally hedged with uncertainty at present. So neither side is in a position to be internally sure at all about the fate of the IMAC. However, it is nothing unusual for both sides to keep up the pretence of being confident of winning the IMAC and that is exactly what they are now doing with some gusto. Well, it is all part of psychological warfare against each other.

Though settling the IMAC via (Inflexible, Inflexible), (GoI Inflexible, ASGoMs- Flexible) or (GoI Flexible, ASGoMs - Inflexible) is feasible, theoretically at least, it is practically not so easy as it may sound. After all, the IMAC is not a mere game of chess but a bloody armed conflict that involves killing and being killed, among other nasty things!

Further analysis of the IMAC's pay-off matrix on the assumption that both sides are rational reveals the existence of a Nash equilibrium in the form of (Flexible, Flexible), shown in the fourth quadrant, i.e. the SW Segment. If the two sides of the IMAC agree to reciprocally switch from their 'Inflexible strategies to the 'Flexible' alternatives with both of them being 'symmetrically' informed that if one side reverts to the 'Inflexible' strategy, the other will follow suit, the IMAC can be resolved in a win-win manner in accordance with the principle of ROSBECA, which is realizable only if both sides come to settle on 'satisficings' that is the strategies that aims to reach an adequate outcome rather than an optimum outcome, and the Nash equilibrium of the IMAC is thus scrambled.

It must also be noted that the pay-offs corresponding to the Nash equilibrium of the IMAC is not only 'balanced' and equitable but also satisfies the conditions of Pareto efficiency. When both sides of the IMAC choose to resolve it via the Nash equilibrium concept in game theory, a new sub-conflict will arise: the ineluctable tug of war between the ASGoMs' MAXIMIN (the process of maximizing the minimum level of autonomy that the GoI would concede to Mani-pur) and the GoI's MINIMAX (the process of minimizing the maximum level of autonomy that the ASGoMs would extract from it), both of which will come into play when the two sides come to the negotiating table.

Now, with a view to elucidate how a win-win settlement of the IMAC can be achieved through the principle of ROSBECA, it may be said that by summoning up enough political will and flexibility, the GoI can offer to acknowledge the justice and legitimacy of the ASGoMS' struggle for sovereignty conditionally and grant Manipur greater autonomy in the form of a wide range of constitutional concessions, provided that the ASGoMs agree to renounce the idea of an independent Manipur and bring their armed struggle to a complete end once and for all in return.

Likewise, but not conversely, taking account of the undesirable implications of dragging out the IMAC further, the ASGoMs can show some flexibility and offer the shelve their common demand for absolute sovereignty, end their armed struggle and leave Manipur to remain a part of India if the GoI is completely ready to enter into an unambiguously formulated, internationally guaranteed treaty wherein it not only recognises the ASGoMs' claim on the sovereignty over Manipur, even if conditionally, and commits itself to granting Manipur a high level of autonomy by passing various Manipur-specific constitutional amendments, but also undertakes to relinquish the 'suzerainty' over Manipur in case of any violation on its part of provisions of the proposed treaty.

In this two cases the offers and conditions attached are conversely the same and both are essentially conformable to the principle of ROSBECA and therefore, achievable only in the Nash equilibrium of the IMAC. But which side will hold out an olive branch first is an open question. Well, neither side will want to do that because it can send the wrong signals to the rival side and give it a psychological advantage. Under the circumstances, the people of Manipur should take the trouble to break the ice and appeal to the rational side of the ASGoMs and the GoI to settle the IMAC in a win-win style by reciprocally taking one step back from their obviously unworkable stances on the core issue of sovereignty.

Now, some conditions and commitments that both sides of the IMAC may seek to impose on and extract from each other in the event of a ROSBECA-based settlement of the IMAC may be discussed. Let me begin with what the ASGoMs may ask from the GoI.

Part of Article one of the constitution of India lays down that no state has the right to secede from the union and that the very existence of each state is at the discretion of the Union Government of India. The ASGoMs may demand that this part of Article one of the constitution of India should be made inapplicable to Manipur so that it can constitutionally seek to secede from the Union of India smoothly, even if through a plebiscite, if the GoI should ever happen to violate any provisions of the treaty that will emerge in the event of A ROSBECA - based resolution of the IMAC. It is also worth noting that this part of Article one of the constitution of India is not compatible with the principle of ROSBECA.

The people of Manipur are naturally very protective of their territorial integrity, as witnessed by the Great June 18th Uprising against the extension of the Indo-NSCN (IM) ceasefire into the territory of Manipur. So it is quite illogical not to expect that the ASGoMs will never accept Article 3 of the Constitution of India as a whole, because it grants parliament the power to form new states by separating a part of the territory of a state or by uniting two or more States or parts of States; to decrease or increase the area of any state; and to alter the boundaries and/or the name of any State.

Moreover, the ASGoMs may demand inapplicability to Manipur of Articles 358 and 359 of the Constitution of India, because the format provides for the suspension of the provisions of Article 19, which guarantees six basic freedom, during Emergency and the latter authorizes the President of India to suspend by order the enforcement of all the fundamental rights guaranteed in Part-III of the Constitution of India with the exception of the rights of protection in respect of conviction for offences and protection of life and liberty, which are guaranteed in Articles 20 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

Article 354 of the Constitution of India, which provides for the modification of the application of provisions relating to the distribution of revenues during Emergency is also bound to come under the 'offensive' of the ASGoMs, which may even seek a cast-iron guarantee from the GoI that no new or existing contingency laws will be imposed on the State of Manipur without prior agreement of the state's elective legislative assembly. There is yet another area concerning which the ASGoMs will very likely demand Manipur-specific amendments to the Constitution of India: the Union-State fiscal relationship. Well, all these form the most contentious points that the ASGoMs will bring up over the course of bargaining with the GoI for a ROSBECA - based settlement of the IMAC.

On the other hand, the GoI can seek to impose some important conditions on and extract some critical undertakings from the ASGoMs. For example, the ASGoMs must not raise the issue of sovereignty or try to revive the idea of an independent Manipur after the signing of the proposed ROSBECA-based settlement of the IMAC. Should the ASGoMs fail to respect their side of the bargain, the State of Manipur shall give up the economic, political and other concessions given to it by virtue of the IMAC resolution treaty.

However, given the huge difference between the ASGoMs and the GoI in all terms, it may be safely concluded that there can be no equitable or workable settlement between them without the incorporation of a third party in the form of an impartial international organisation, preferably the UN, as its enforcer. The function of the third party must basically be to ensure that both sides of the IMAC always respect the provisions of the IMAC resolution treaty. But its involvement in the treaty ought to be governed by a pre-delineated set of terms of reference.

To be continued ....

* Nongdrenkhomba Senjam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer's can be contacted at maniyaisenjam(at)hotmail(dot)com or you can 'friend' him at facebook profile 'nongdrensenjam83'
This article was posted on June 02 2012 .

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