In a landmark move, the Centre on Monday signed a historic peace deal with Nagaland's insurgent group National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM).
The deal was inked at 7 RCR in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah.
Speaking at the landmark event, Prime Minister Modi said that economic transformation of the Northeastern region has always been a top priority for the government.
Here's the full speech of the Prime Minister:
Shri Rajnath Singhji, Home Minister
Shri Muivah and all senior leaders of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland.
My warm greetings to all those present here today on this historic occasion!
I wish that Shri Isak Swu, who played a leading role in reaching this agreement, was present today. He could not be here because of poor health. I wish him speedy recovery. Just as his contribution to this agreement has been huge, his guidance will remain crucial in the times ahead.
The Naga political issue had lingered for six decades, taking a huge toll on generations of our people.
I sincerely thank Shri Isak Swu, Shri Muivah and other Naga leaders for their wisdom and courage, for their efforts and cooperation, which has resulted in this historic agreement.
I have the deepest admiration for the great Naga people for their extraordinary support to the peace efforts. I compliment the National Socialist Council of Nagaland for maintaining the ceasefire agreement for nearly two decades, with a sense of honour that defines the great Naga people.
My relationship with the North East has been deep. I have travelled to Nagaland on many occasions. I have been deeply impressed by the rich and diverse culture and the unique way of life of the Naga people. It makes not only our nation, but also the world a more beautiful place.
The Naga courage and commitment are legendary. Equally, they represent the highest levels of humanism. Their system of village administration and grass-root democracy should be an inspiration for the rest of the country.
The respect for the infirm and elders, the status of women in society, sensitivity to Mother Nature, and the emphasis on social equality is a natural way of Naga life. These are values that should constitute the foundation of the society that we all seek.
Unfortunately, the Naga problem has taken so long to resolve because we did not understand each other. It is a legacy of the British Rule. The colonial rulers had, by design, kept the Nagas isolated and insulated. They propagated terrible myths about Nagas in the rest of the country. They deliberately suppressed the reality that the Nagas were an extremely evolved society. They also spread negative ideas about the rest of India amongst Naga people. This was part of the well known policy of divide and rule of the colonial rulers.
It is one of the tragedies of Independent India that we have lived with this legacy. There were not many like Mahatma Gandhi, who loved the Naga people and was sensitive to their sentiments. We have continued to look at each other through the prism of false perceptions and old prejudices.
The result was that connectivity between Nagaland and the rest of India remained weak across this divide. Economic development and progress in Nagaland remained modest; and, durable peace was elusive.
Since becoming Prime Minister last year, peace, security and economic transformation of North East has been amongst my highest priorities. It is also at the heart of my foreign policy, especially the 'Act East' Policy.
I have been deeply concerned about resolving the Naga issue. Soon after entering office, I appointed an interlocutor for talks with the Naga leaders, who not only understood the Naga people as also their aspirations and expectations, but has great affection and respect for them.
Given the importance of this initiative, I asked my office to supervise these talks; and I personally kept in touch with the progress. I want to especially thank my senior colleague, Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singhji, whose support and advice was invaluable in bringing us here today.
Today's agreement is a shining example of what we can achieve when we deal with each other in a spirit of equality and respect, trust and confidence; when we seek to understand concerns and try to address aspirations; when we leave the path of dispute and take the high road of dialogue. It is a lesson and an inspiration in our troubled world.
Today, we mark not merely the end of a problem, but the beginning of a new future. We will not only try to heal wounds and resolve problems, but also be your partner as you restore your pride and prestige.
Today, to the leaders and the people of Nagaland, I say this: You will not only build a bright future for Nagaland, but your talents, traditions and efforts will also contribute to making the nation stronger, more secure, more inclusive and more prosperous. You are also the guardians of our eastern frontiers and our gateway to the world beyond.
Equally, the rest of the nation will join you in shaping a future of dignity, opportunity and prosperity for the Naga people.
Today, as you begin a new glorious chapter with a sense of pride, self-confidence and self-respect, I join the nation in saluting you and conveying our good wishes to the Naga people.