The Centre's interlocutor for Naga peace talks, A.K. Mishra, is walking a tightrope as he seems to be steering the talks towards getting the Nagas to accept that there can be neither a flag nor a separate Constitution since there will be no physical integration of Naga inhabited areas in Nagaland with those in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The slow shift in stance in the longest running insurgency is coming after the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG) have turned against the aged and ailing T.H. Muivah, general secretary of the NSCN(IM), which is signatory to the framework agreement made with the government in 2015.
However, the bigger question is can Muivah be isolated? According to the NNPGs, a forum of seven big Naga groups, Muivah, a Tangkhul Naga from Manipur's Ukhrul district, has lost moral authority to claim legitimacy over the Naga political issue as he had already spelt out his position in 2012 that physical integration of all Naga inhabited regions was not possible and sovereignty of the Naga state is not possible. Despite repeated denials by the NSCN(IM) of watering down its stand, the reality on ground is that the insurgent outfit and its leaders are vastly aware of the changing scenario. The Nagas of Manipur, particularly the Naga chief ministers in Manipur, have repeatedly passed resolutions that they will not cede an inch of Manipur territory to Nagaland.
The NNPGs said they have negotiated and ensured ample political and administrative space in Naga areas outside Nagaland. “This is the most realistic way for Nagas to co-exist in our vast homeland,'' they said. Top security sources said a middle ground based on this premise is being worked upon. The talks have got a shot in the arm with the NNPGs stating that ''any insistence that Nagaland state belongs to all Nagas, north, south, east and west is sheer stupidity and unacceptable.''
The Naga groups said, ''Since physical integration is not possible now, the future generations must pursue reintegration with a higher vision.''
Whether that vision is acceptable to Muivah and the NSCN(IM) remains to be seen. But the unique visit of Mishra to camp Hebron, the headquarters of NSCN(IM)’s parallel government, to hold talks with Muivah at least thrice is an indication that there is definite pressure on the group to reveal its stance without ushering another era of bloodshed.