Post Mortem

Framework Agreement and the agreed position

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 11/3/2020 1:03:43 PM IST

 (From previous issue)

Historically, Naga leaders have always been wary and warned of the insincerity of the Indian leadership. For instance, the Nine Point Agreement (1947) was unilaterally revoked by the Indian leaders; the first Ceasefire Agreement (1964) was annulled unilaterally again; the Sixteen Point Agreement (1960) was never fulfilled. So, the addition of a counteragent (NNPGs) to the NSCN opened on one end a larger space for critical thinking on the sincerity of the GoI and on the other end the negotiating capacity of the Naga leaders. It also opened the options for solution to prying minds. It was, and still is, only natural for the Nagas to critically question whether the leadership on the negotiating table would be able to hold the Indian leadership accountable on their promises. In the middle of such uncertainties, Ravi saw the disgruntled groups of opportunists, status quoists, defectors, and parochialists among the Nagas questioning the leadership of the NSCN. It was a perfect time for the interlocutor to gamble with the question of Naga leadership. Such tactics of ‘Divide and Rule’ policy is known to have divided the Nagas further and flustered the energy of the leadership to date. 

Although the NNPGs would fit well within Ravi’s scheme in challenging the NSCN leadership, he had to create a support base for the new leadership from the public and civil societies while discrediting the traditional support base of the NSCN. The polarization of the Nagas into Nagaland state and the Nagas outside Nagaland state was like an avatar for the interlocutor, where his need was readily found in the formation of Nagaland Tribe Council and Central Nagaland Tribe Council. Apparently, the support base of NNPGs was confined narrowly to the Nagaland state, but Ravi, a man adept with bureaucratic skills in dividing the Nagas, weighs in the new leadership on the table of the talk as the more practical option towards a solution. The interlocutor failed to understand that it was a time to unite the Nagas for solution and not divide them, as it was during the pre-ceasefire era. The creation of the two camps on the negotiation table became an antithesis to the hopeful settlement after the FA. 

The Nagas are weighing two possibilities for finalizing the solution. Although both documents promised the Naga’s right to self-determination, it is imperative for the Naga intellectuals and leaders to understand the subterranean foundation of the “Framework Agreement” and the “Agreed Position”. The two documents equally recognize their (Nagalim/Nagaland) existence as a separate entity from India. However, one needs to investigate whether such accordance is given in the sense of social, cultural, economic, and political recognition. It is also necessary to know that India as a nation-state of many social-cultural communities gives legitimacy to different entities for exercising certain political powers internally within the frame of Indian constitution Eg: Nagaland state is a distinct entity empowered with political powers defined within the constitution of Indian nation-state. 

Nagas must peruse whether the documents signed by the NSCN or the NNPGs could be trapped within such complexities. At least for the “Agreed Position” such confusion is dispelled by the release of its full content. Wherein, the Agreed Position paper explains its limitation to overcome the incorrigible basic structure of the Indian constitution. The negotiations between the NNPGs and India carefully warned on the subjects which shall not pass the scrutiny of the Supreme Court of India. Taking cognizance of the existing structural-institutional impediments of the Indian system, the Working Committee clearly incised the issue into GoI and Nagaland state, and delegitimized the non-indigenous leaders (outside Nagaland state) from signing any final solution. The Agreed Position further invoked the sacrosanct of Article 371A of the Indian Constitution, and alarmed the people of the state to desist any forces from replacing the article. Thereon, the document explicitly follows to enumerate upon separate constitutional schemes for Nagaland, and the Nagas in Arunachal and Manipur. Specifically, the “Agreed Position” created Nagas into three separate asymmetrical entities with defined constitutional safeguards for “right to self-determination” within the Indian Union. In such a one-sided agreement without any sort of trusteeship, there are always loose ends where the dominant party could retract from the agreed position, or the agreement became obscure in the structural-administrative procedures of the existing supra laws. In order to wedge through a solid foundation of the agreement, further attention would be needed, especially, in the matters of finance as experienced by the Bodo Territorial Council, promulgation of legislations in the territorial council, and the processes of implementing the agreement in entirety. 

Similar precise analysis for the FA may fall short as its full content with enumeration on its competencies is yet to surface in the public domain. However, salvaging from the one-page text of the FA, it can be deduced that it is a testament of resolve to negotiate between the GoI and the NSCN, clearly dwelling upon the sharing of sovereign powers. As sovereignty is characterized by independent legislative power to govern oneself (authority), territory, population, and formal recognition of independent identities, the two parties on the negotiating table could be assumed as haggling over the competencies of sharing such characteristics. Firstly, it has been known that the tussle over the status of “Yaruiwo/President”, in other words the ceremonial “sovereign head” on whose behalf exercises the independent law of the land, is inconclusively under negotiation. Secondly, the “Yehzabo/Constitution”, which is the supreme law of the land is continued to be a contentious issue. Thirdly, the deliberation on the “re-integration of the contiguous Naga territory and populations” is stalled on the negotiating table. Fourthly, the symbolic representation of the Naga territory, population, government and its system into one through their national flag remained unresolved. 

The aforementioned contentions indicate that the conflict between the NSCN and the GoI rests on the tussle for supremacy over the Naga nation. It is a case of flexing powers as separate sovereign entities, wherein, the GoI currently overwhelms the other. Therefore, the FA can be seen as a document of preamble to create a model where the NSCN can have its independent government that shares sovereign powers with India. Although, the sharing of competencies between the two entities for the calibration of their own sovereign characteristics remained unknown to the wider public, the kind of the “right to self-determination” espoused in the FA can be understood to be beyond the constitution of India, unless it is capitulated under the negotiating table. 

There are many similar conflicts around the world from which the GoI and the NSCN can learn from, and appreciate the complexity of such cases. International theorist Stephen D. Krasner writes extensively on possible models for shared sovereignty. Objectively, his models of shared sovereignty can be grouped into two; intra-model and inter-model, considering the location between the contending actors. While in the intra-model the contending actors are both external and internal parties, whereas, actors in the inter-model are two or more external entities contending over common jurisdiction. Hongkong offers the intra-model of shared sovereignty, where China allowed Hongkong to exercise international legal sovereignty while the administrative authority is directly devolved from the national government of the People’s Republic of China. In the inter-model of sovereignty, Krasner gives examples, such as, West Germany under the Bonn-Paris Convention, in which, the United Kingdom, United States and France retain certain powers while West Germany was accorded with full authority of being a sovereign state. In order to fulfil the testament of the FA signed with fans and clamours, the GoI and the NSCN needs to study upon various historical and existing countries with model of shared sovereignty. In recent years, model of shared sovereignty has been put to experiment in the region of Bangsamoro in Phillipines that has successfully ended decades of conflict. The American model of dual sovereignty is another plausible aspect to resolve the cases of flag and constitution. 

Both the “Framework Agreement” and “Agreed Position” mooted for an honourable, enduring, and inclusive solution. What is not honourable cannot be enduring nor inclusive for the Nagas or even bring momentary peace because the Nagas are sensitively divided by the existing structures and systems. But what really is “honour” in the trajectory of the Naga movement? In simple terms, there cannot be greater honour for the Nagas than honouring the cause where thousands and thousands of lives have been sacrificed, and where millions have silently waged war against the aggressors of the land in pain and anguish. Many leaders have passed away unable to accomplish the dreams of the Naga people. Now, can the few older generation leaders left in the movement dishonour the cause of the Nagas by relinquishing the dreams of their people? Can they forget the faces of the martyrs and the praying heart of the motherland? These may seem to be moral questions, but the sacrifices made are beyond this dilemma for the leaders—the ultimate quest is fulfilment of the political will of the Nagas. Merely signing two separate agreements with RN Ravi is not the desideratum of the Naga people for an “enduring” “inclusive” and an “honourable” solution. 

Dr. Gideon Shadang, Institute of Naga Studies, Dimapur



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