Current General Studies Magazine: "Fresh Challenges in the Northeast" November 2015

Current General Studies Magazine (November 2015)

General Studies - III "Geography Based Article" (Fresh Challenges in the Northeast)

It is time the government paid the right kind of attention to the northeastern region, that stunning and strategic locale that ‘mainland India’ often does not understand, and routinely tends to ignore. It has been more than two months since the Narendra Modi government euphorically announced a peace accord with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), the largest among the armed outfits involved in the long-drawn Naga insurgency. What has transpired since the announcement on August 3 leaves very little room for optimism. Now, instead of working towards peace, the NSCN(I-M) is reported to be recruiting cadres, and possibly setting up camps, in the Manipur hills. Meanwhile, Manipur continues to be tense over tribal protests against the State government’s hasty passing of three key bills without proper discussion. It has been accused of being insensitive to relations among the settlers in the valley, the hill tribes and the migrants. Agitations over the last few weeks have claimed many lives. Reported instances of smuggling of arms and drugs and extortion in Manipur have gone up. Given the complex and bloodied history of the region, recent developments provide stark warnings of the possibility of even more anarchy.

New Delhi needs to deal with the region with a broader political response than through a few intelligence officers. Securitising the entire challenge is not the way to go. To take forward the peace accord with the NSCN(I-M) and to find a meaningful and lasting solution, the government should first acknowledge that what was signed on August 3 was only a basic framework for a possible accord, and broaden the efforts. The government should reach out to the opposition parties, regional outfits and civil society movements to form a national secretariat in mission mode in order to tackle the region’s many challenges. With the empowered secretariat in place, the government should get down to dealing with the nagging insurgencies of the region and the grievances of its many tribes and residents. Convincing all the insurgent groups, and not just splinter Naga rebels, in an inclusive manner to come to the table for peace talks, dealing with their demands with a non-condescending approach, and disarming them would all help the region find peace. The security forces should be empowered, though with due judicial accountability, to put down the industry of extortion and smuggling networks. The region’s significance in security terms cannot be overstated, given its historic geo-strategic role. And here, along a disputed stretch of the border, India and China are currently involved in one of the biggest conventional military build-ups ever.

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