TODAY -

Why Political Solution is the Ultimate Option ?
- Part 2 -

Sanatomba Kangujam *

UNLF MPA cadres at a base camp in December 2008
UNLF MPA cadres at a base camp in December 2008 :: Pix - TSE



Need for Third Party Mediation The involvement of a third party is highly indispensable for any project of conflict transformation especially in a situation marked by serious incompatibility and political deadlock. If the conflicting parties are capable of arriving at a negotiated settlement through a bilateral engagement, there is no need for a third party involvement. However, if the parties to the conflict are not in a position to initiate a political dialogue or proceed with a political negotiation on their own, the involvement of a third party becomes a matter of paramount importance.

In the context of Manipur, there is a need for third party intervention for at least two reasons. First, the stiff political stances adopted by both the conflicting parties have been the major factor for the inability to start a political dialogue. In order to resolve this deadlock, the facilitation of a third party is highly called for.

Second, there is a strong sense of insecurity and mistrust on the part of the insurgent groups that any political dialogue or peace process with the Government of India would end up in capitulation. Any political negotiation between a weak power and a strong power is always destined to be in favour of the latter.

It is the prevalence of such mind-set and belief that hinders the initiative for a political dialogue. Therefore, in order to remove such fear and insecurity, a third party mediation becomes essential. In other words, the role of a third party will be facilitatory as well as mediatory.

On the Rigidness of Political Stand

Majority of the insurgent groups of Manipur are not in favour of holding political dialogue with the Government of India. Their apprehension and fear are not without justifications. The most significant reason often cited by the insurgent groups is that peace talks often leads to capitulation of the liberation movement instead of achieving any substantive outcome. This is true to a large extent.

But the opposition to any political dialogue solely on the ground of fear and suspicion is not fully convincing. Are the insurgent groups so weak that they are so scared of any dialogue process? If so, then they need to do a lot of homework. The capacity to launch an armed struggle also necessarily entails the capacity to engage in a dialogue process.

There is a tendency to think that one is doomed the moment one steps into the peace process. Such an understanding, however, is symptomatic of a 'defeated mentality' and simply demonstrates sheer incompetency of the organisations or the leaders concerned. Because there is always the option to exercise the choice to pull out of the peace process (read as political process) anytime when the concerned party feel that it is no longer substantive or productive. After all, dialogue is only a process of exchanging views or stating one's position on the issue and may not necessarily involve actual negotiation.

It is generally alleged that the Naga peace process has not been able to achieve any concrete political outcome. Nevertheless, the NSCN-IM has the capacity to engage in a peace process for more than 13 years. This demonstrates the diplomatic and negotiation skills of the NSCN leadership. After all, to engage in a peace process with a mighty power like India for more than one decade without capitulating is not an easy task notwithstanding the occasional setbacks, which the NSCN-IM might have encountered.

It is relevant to ask whether or not the insurgent groups of Manipur have trained human resources or manpower to be employed in the event of any political dialogue with the government. Such a concern comes to the fore mainly because no matter how long a group engage in armed struggle, political solution will always remain the ultimately option to resolve the prevailing conflict.

Sometimes, the duration of the peace talk is often overstretched so much so that it creates an apprehension among concerned quarters. The policy of the government is to wear down the insurgent leadership as well as to make it difficult for the cadres to return to the jungle by creating comfort zone in their psyche. The government also frequently takes advantage of the peace process to incite factionalism within the insurgent group. The approach of the government is mainly driven by the desire to weaken the insurgent groups rather than resolving the core issue that underlies the conflict. These are the main reasons why the insurgent groups are not willing to share the negotiating table with the government.

Notwithstanding such negative ramifications, it deserves to be stated that political solution cannot be achieved overnight. Conflict transformation is a long term participatory process involving a series of dialogues and negotiations. The insurgent groups are required to prepare for such kind of political engagement. Here, I would like to use the term political engagement in order to avoid the misgivings generally associated with the terms like peace talk, peace process and political dialogue.

The insurgent groups need to politically engage with the GoI to achieve specific objectives. First, they can internationalise the conflict in Manipur. Second, they can strengthen their organisations. Third, they can take the opportunity to build their relationship with the masses. Last, they can project the armed conflict in Manipur as a political issue by taking the struggle to the political level. So far, they have not been able retrieve the conflict situation from the statist framework of law and order.

Although striking a tough political stand is indispensable from the standpoint of increasing one's bargaining power, it alone does not constitute the essence of a political movement. It is utterly meaningless to simply adopt a rigid position if that is not reinforced by compatible political action. Politics, after all, shares many things in common with the game of chess. One has to keep moving as per the rules of the game irrespective of one's position.

For, one just cannot withhold one's move indefinitely on the ground that only few choices are available. Availability or non-availability of choices is not the matter of concern here. What is more important is the ability to make the right move at the right time in any given situation. In this regard, it is worthwhile to remark that the plebiscite proposal floated by the UNLF was a fantastic political move. The proposal was able to generate widespread political discourse on the issue of Manipur's sovereignty at a time when the insurgency movement had become stagnant. That the proposal has not been accepted by the government is another question. Nevertheless, it was a powerful move. That is politics.

The actual concern is not about whether a political dialogue should be held or not, but about the need to do something to find a lasting solution (not capitulation) to the conflict in Manipur which has remained intractable for many decades. As stated above, the government and the insurgents are caught in a military deadlock in which neither side is in a position to achieve a decisive victory over the other. In such a situation, mutual political engagement may be suggested as a means to resolve the deadlock and find a Satisfactory Political Solution to the protracted conflict.

In the meantime, the conflicting parties are morally obliged to ameliorate the grievances and suffering of the people through minimising collateral damages. In this case, strict adherence to relevant provisions of International Humanitarian Law by both the state and the non-state actors has become a matter of paramount importance.

Concluded ...


* Sanatomba Kangujam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on March 09, 2012.



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