PM Modi Tasks Intelligence Bureau Chief With Resetting Naga Peace Talks

The centre is believed to be particularly concerned by what appears to be a three-way feud in Nagaland - between the NSCN(IM), the largest of the rebel groups, RN Ravi and the new National Naga Political Groups (NNPG).

NSCN(IM) leader Thuingaleng Muivah (to the left of PM Modi) said Nagas will not merge with India

New Delhi:

The Prime Minister's Office is "disturbed" over the standoff in the Naga peace talks between Nagaland Governor RN Ravi, who is also the centre's interlocutor, and various rebel groups over the past few months and has asked the Intelligence Bureau chief to take over, top sources have told NDTV.

Intelligence Bureau Director Arvind Kumar has been tasked to bring the apparently derailed talks back on track.

"Over the last six years RN Ravi, in his capacity as interlocutor, had been talking to various Naga groups. But in the past 10 or 11 months, things have not been going well," a senior government official said.

According to the official, the PMO has also asked IB Special Director Akshay Kumar Mishra to join the firefighting effort.

The centre is believed to be particularly concerned by what appears to be a three-way feud in Nagaland - between the NSCN(IM), the largest of the rebel groups, RN Ravi and the new National Naga Political Groups (NNPG).

The fact Governor Ravi openly targeted the elected government in Nagaland, which is a BJP alliance partner, has also not gone down well.

Mr Ravi, in his Independence Day speech, had said: "Nagaland is endowed with one of the finest human and natural resources. Unfortunately, today it has the dubious distinction of the worst-performing state in the country, including the northeast region, on almost all significant indicators of human development".

Over the past 11 months, the rift between Mr Ravi and various Naga groups has been widening.

"In October last year a consensus was to be reached but it did not materialise. The centre retaliated and launched a crackdown on NSCN(IM) cadres and leaders. This upset Naga leaders," an official said, adding that the perception that the interlocutor was favouring the NNPG over NSCN(IM) did not help matters.

The NNPG had in March urged the interlocutor to sign the delayed peace talks at the earliest "with or without" the NSCN-IM on board.

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Last week, NSCN(IM) General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah said the centre had recognised the sovereignty of the Nagas through the 2015 agreement.

The surprising statement came days after the powerful rebel group, which has been part of the 18-year peace dialogue with the centre, spoke of a "roadblock" and asked for RN Ravi's removal as the interlocutor.

On Sunday evening the group released a statement that said: "The interlocutor carries the mandate of the Prime Minister but, since RN Ravi created an imbroglio... the Prime Minister has given mandate to continue the talk to a team of IB (officials) as a fast-track channel..."

The Naga civil society and students' organisations are divided in their loyalties. Most have aligned with their respective regions or tribes.

Opposition parties continue to target the centre over the framework agreement reached with Naga rebel groups in 2015.

"Delhi had promised new cultural identity for Nagas without changing territorial boundaries. But as there are many tensions between tribes too, nothing substantial has come out so far," an official said.

However, the centre has refused to back down. "Talks will go on as the government cannot be threatened," a senior bureaucrat declared.

As part of the renewed effort, the North East Division of the IB also has new officers. Mandeep Tulli, a 1999 batch officer who until now was posted in Manipur's Imphal, is back in Delhi as Joint Director (North East). Nagaland has also got a new SIB (State Intelligence Bureau) head in 1996-batch officer Ritu Mishra.