On Aug 3, 2015 RN Ravi signed a framework agreement on behalf of the Union government with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) to end the decades-old Naga insurgency, details of which are still a well-kept secret. A joint intelligence chief (JIC) with the Government of India, he is the chief interlocutor for the Naga peace talks.
What is his northeast link?
A 1976 batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of the Kerala cadre, Mr. Ravi retired as Special Director in the Intelligence Bureau in 2012. He was appointed as JIC, which works under the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) in September 2014, months after the NDA came to power. Though the Union Home Ministry recommended an extension for Ajit Lal, the then Naga interlocutor, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) overruled it.
Mr. Ravi has closely worked with National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval during the latter’s stint as Intelligence Bureau Director and is learnt to have his confidence. Mr. Ravi was in charge of the northeast desk during his stint with IB.
How did he get them to talk?
The government waited for Mr. Lal’s tenure to expire in July 2014 before appointing Mr. Ravi to the post. He was given an office in the Vigyan Bhavan annexe, and he opened doors for all Naga groups to come and record their suggestions. Mr. Ravi came under criticism for holding a dialogue only with the NSCN-IM and not other groups. When asked, he said the NSCN-IM was the largest group representing the Nagas and the others did not come for the meetings. The framework agreement that Mr. Ravi managed to clinch was a culmination of over 80 rounds of negotiations that spanned 16 years with the first breakthrough in 1997 when a ceasefire agreement was sealed. During this time, former Governor Swaraj Kaushal, former Union Minister Oscar Fernandes and former Union Home Secretary K. Padmanabhaiah had mediated with Naga leaders. The NSCN-IM has been fighting for ‘Greater Nagaland’ or Nagalim — it wants to extend Nagaland’s borders by including Naga-dominated areas in neighbouring Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh to unite 1.2 million Nagas, a move the three States oppose.
What about the agreement?
Opposition parties have on several occasions asked the government to release the details of the framework agreement. Two years after it was signed with much fanfare at the residence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there does not seem to be much headway in reaching a final solution.
There has been little progress in talks, particularly after the death of Isak Swu, one of the two leaders of the NSCN-IM. Swu, 86, passed away on June 28 last year in a Delhi hospital because of multiple organ failure. Mr. Ravi ensured that Mr. Doval attended Swu’s condolence meeting at Nagaland House in Delhi.
At the meeting, an emotionally charged Mr. Ravi drew a parallel between Swu and Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation. While Gandhi had led a non-violent movement for India’s freedom, till 1997 when NSCN-IM signed a ceasefire agreement with the Centre, it was involved in a bloody insurgency in Nagaland for almost two decades since its formation in 1980.
What are the hurdles?
Mr. Ravi said last year that when he was appointed as the peace interlocutor he got clear directions from the Prime Minister that “Nagas should win” and the negotiations with the Naga group was “not a zero sum game.” On August 12 last year, the Home Ministry issued a joint communiqué on behalf of Mr. Ravi and NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah, saying they were “closer than ever before to the final settlement and hope to conclude it sooner than later.”
On February 23 this year, during the economic blockade in Manipur, Mr. Ravi was fielded by the government to allay Manipur’s fears that the agreement would compromise its territorial integrity. The blockade continued for more than 100 days at the behest of United Naga Council, a conglomerate of Naga bodies, against the Manipur government’s decision to carve out seven new districts in the hill areas of the State dominated by the Nagas and other tribes. The UNC operates under the patronage of the NSCN-IM and it put a question mark on Mr. Ravi’s efforts.
This article was published in Hindu on July 15, 2017.