The deadlock between the government and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) over a separate Naga flag and constitution has been broken, has learnt. The NSCN (IM), the largest Naga armed group, has agreed to sign a peace accord without a separate Naga constitution and with a “conditional flag” that can only be allowed for non-governmental purposes.

“We have agreed to finalise the agreement,” a member of NSCN (IM)’s negotiation team told “The flag and the Constitution will be pursued later.”

This development comes just as the October 31 deadline set by the Centre for a final settlement with Naga armed groups was about to lapse. However, it is not quite clear when the agreement will formally be signed. “There will be a proper signing ceremony soon,” said the leader. “We have to go over all the agreed competencies before signing. It may take some time.”

For over six decades, Naga nationalists have fought the Indian state for a sovereign ethnic homeland that would include Nagaland as well as the Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar across the border. Over the decades, the Naga armed movement split into several factions, often at war with each other.

In 1997, the NSCN (IM), signed a peace treaty and started a dialogue with the Union government. There was, however, little headway until 2015, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government signed a “framework agreement” with the group – a development publicised as a major breakthrough by both sides.

The scope of the talks has been broadened since October 2017, when six other Naga armed groups joined negotiations. Having signed ceasefires, these now called themselves Naga National Political Groups and operated as one bloc. They include the NSCN (Kitovi Zhimomi), the Naga Nationalist Council, the Federal Government of Nagaland, the NSCN (Reformation), the National Peoples Government of Nagaland (Non-Accord), the Government Democratic Republic of Nagaland (Non-Accord). Later, the Khango Konyak-led faction of the NSCN (Khaplang) also joined talks.

These groups have been more flexible with their position. Last month, they went public, expressing their intent to sign an agreement without a flag and a constitution – the issues holding up a final agreement between the NSCN (IM) and the Centre.