The Centre’s attempts to resume the stalled talks with Naga rebels in India’s northeast haven’t borne fruit despite a potential new government interlocutor having been finalised. The reason: the incumbent is yet to relinquish the post.
The Centre hasn’t been able to finalise the appointment of former Intelligence Bureau (IB) Special Director Akshaya Kumar Mishra in the position because former Nagaland Governor RN Ravi still holds charge as interlocutor.
While Mr Mishra is Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s choice, Mr Ravi, a 1976-batch IPS officer of Kerala cadre who was also with the IB earlier, was handpicked for the job by National Security Advisor Ajit Kumar Doval in 2014.
“It’s been more than one year now…he (Mr Ravi) has not met anyone as an interlocutor. He was appointed Tamil Nadu Governor last week, but he still has not relinquished his charge as interlocutor,” a source in the Ministry of Home Affairs disclosed.
“In the past two years, the trust deficit between the Governor and the Naga insurgent groups had deepened. It has led to a stalemate. He (Mr Ravi) was removed to restart the stalled process,” the source explained.
Mr Ravi, according to the source, was made Nagaland Governor in 2019 despite opposition from the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN I-M), the key rebel group that the government is talking to.
Meanwhile, sources indicate, the Union Home Ministry is likely to announce the name of Mr Mishra, a 1987 batch IPS officer belonging to the Rajasthan cadre, as the new interlocutor.
Since his retirement in April 2021, he is already advising the ministry on the Northeast. He has been dealing with the NSCN after relations between the NSCN’s Thuingaleng Muivah and Mr Ravi deteriorated, a senior official said.
There are indications that Arvind Kumar, the IB Director, may also join Mr Mishra as an additional interlocutor for the Naga peace talks.
With Mr Mishra as Advisor, the ministry has, in the past couple of months, been able to sign a peace pact with NSCN and a peace accord with five armed groups based in Assam’s Karbi-Anglong district.
“These are big achievements for the ministry and we hope that the stand-off between the Centre and the Naga insurgent groups gets dissolved, too,” a senior official divulged.