Nagaland legislators have mixed views on proposed MoU with Assam to explore oil in unresolved border lands

Kohima: WC, NNPGs has stiffly opposed the MoU that Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma declared they would sign for the economic benefit of both states.

BY | Tuesday, 25 April, 2023

The Nagaland government in all likelihood will be reviewing the proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that it intends to sign with the Assam government regarding oil exploration in border areas that are disputed between the states. In fact, the government will once again take a closer look on the entire matter.

If this happens than it will be a significant development since the Working Committee of the NNPGs (Naga National Political Groups) has stiffly opposed the MoU that Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma declared they would sign.

Speaking to a section of newspersons, Nagaland Power & Parliamentary affairs minister KG Kenye gave a clear indication of this as he backed the statements made by the WC, NNPGs saying that it has a point. Minister Kenye said, “Yes, we are aware of the statements which the WC, NNPGs has made. They have a point because this is very much a part of the negotiations in the talks that they are having with the Government of India. So, we will have to take a closer look at the issue, side by the side, the CMs of the 2 states have also reached a certain level of understanding.  So, it will be in the interest of both the states and the Centre.”

Kenye assured that such an approach will be made which will be favourable. He said,”We will have a closer look not to in anyway antagonise both sides and an approach which will be satisfying to all the stakeholders also. So, I am sure reviews will be undertaken in a short time.”

The minister also maintained that the desire and interests of the people comes first since the Nagaland government is a people’s government and maintained that there will be a proper approach, for a relook into the matter.

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On the other hand, a section of Naga leaders has ‘backed’ the move made by both the state governments.

NPF secretary general and MLA Achumbemo Kikon pointed out that raising an objection without proper analysis is hasty.

He said, “simply raising an objection from an individual or an organisation without properly analysing the status of what is the intention as well as what has been transpired in between these 2 states may be a little hasty at the moment. Therefore, I think we need to cooperate with one another and find a best possible way which will benefit our people without compromising the rights of the Naga people.”

However, Kikon believes that there must be a proper understanding between both the sides and said, “the Nagaland government has studied both the merit and demerit of the issue and the best possible option at the moment is to have a proper understanding with the Government of Assam because many of the oil belt areas are falling under the disputed area belt. And the boundary issue between Assam and Nagaland, you are aware is still pending in the Supreme Court. So, if we are to view from that perspective to my mind I think with the best of his intention, our Honourable Chief Minister as well as the present government are trying to reach out to our neighbour and exploring the possibility of how to come to a kind of understanding with our neighbouring state Assam without compromising the rights of the Naga people.”

Meanwhile, Naga Hoho general secretary, Elu Ndang said, “There should not be any problem if the concerned state governments take into confidence the stakeholders and the Naga civil societies and have further discussions and consultations. These should not have any future effect.”

Ndang however feels that the disturbed area between both the states is a sensitive matter, and the issue of dispute can be settled only through political negotiations.

Spokesperson of Nationalist Congress Party, Nagaland and MLA Toiho Yeptho also expressed his reaction to the WC, NNPGs opposing the Nagaland government’s proposed MoU with Assam government.

Yeptho said,”The NNPGs, they have their own opinion and right to express their opinion, so I have no comment on that. But, in the disturbed area belt all the oilfields are situated. My opinion is that if the royalty is shared by both the Nagaland government and the Assam government on 50-50 basis, then I think it will be a good revenue for our government.”

When asked if this issue will impact the ongoing peace process, Yeptho in his reply said,”Peace talks is a different issue altogether, and this is about the revenue generation programme. I think it is ok to go ahead with that.”

It may be mentioned that the NNPGs had objected to the MoU stating that the matter is a subject of the ongoing negotiations between the Government of India, NSCN-IM and the NNPGs pertaining to a final solution to the Naga political issue.

The WC NNPGs had stated that neither of the state governments have the authority to negotiate or enter into joint agreements on oil exploration or agreement on the unresolved border areas.

Read more: NNPGS Working Committee demands withdrawal of any ‘premature’ MoU between Nagaland and Assam on oil exploration

Nagaland CM Rio and Assam counterpart Himata meet, agree for oil exploration along disputed boundary

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