Ceasefires and State Order-Making in Naga Northeast India

Article by Alex Waterman

The 1997 Indo–Naga ceasefire is one of the world’s longest truces. Although formally-agreed rules technically regulate the state-rebel relationship, the rules themselves and their applicability beyond the Indian state of Nagaland are ambiguous and open to interpretation. Far from static, the ceasefire represents an evolving cluster of ‘armed orders’ oscillating between coexistence and limited conflict [Staniland, Paul. “Armed Politics and the Study of Intrastate Conflict,” Journal of Peace Research 54, no. 4 (July 1, 2017): 459–67. doi:10.1177/0022343317698848]. Indian state actors display intriguing variations in their approaches towards these orders, from restraint and de-escalation in some circumstances to aggressive local counterinsurgency in others. To date, however, existing research on order within ceasefires focus on rebel perspectives. Building on existing efforts to reconceptualise ceasefires as arenas in which political order is negotiated and constructed, this article re-introduces the state’s role in order-making, locating these processes within wider rebel and non-state attempts to do so. Analysing armed orders in the Naga ceasefire, it reveals a fascinating spectrum of bargaining, signalling and negotiation over the formal and informal rules of armed orders. This challenges the notion that ceasefires simply lock in state-armed group orders, but instead create new spaces for armed order’s renegotiation.

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