Two armed groups – kuki and naga – have come out openly to work together for the first time since the early 1990s, the Imphal Free Press reported on Sunday. The working committees of Naga National Political Groups and Kuki National Organisation signed a joint declaration to work together on January 10. While the NNPGs is an umbrella body of seven Naga militant outfits, the KNO is one of the two umbrella bodies of 17 Kuki militant outfits. Both NNPGs and KNO have been holding peace talks with the Centre.

A joint statement by NNPGs convener N Kitovi Zhimomi and KNO President PS Haokip said after thorough deliberation and discussion on the contentious political, social and inter-community matters prevailing for decades in Manipur, the two sides agreed to “work together closely in resolving difference through the democratic political process thereby the history and identity of one is respected and acknowledged by the other, now and in the future”. The two groups also agreed to appraise each other of matters that can have socio-political ramifications for one community or the other.

KNO spokesperson Seilen Haokip called the development “the foundation of peace” between the Kukis and the Nagas. “When two different political groups are keen on co-existence, naturally they converge towards building peace,” he said. “We don’t want to be enemies with anyone. I hope others will also follow suit.”

The NNPGs’ initial demand was sovereignty and territorial integration of Nagas. Last year, it had announced that it was ready to sign a deal with the Centre. The KNO, which is also currently holding peace talks with the Centre, has demanded a separate Territorial Council for Kukiland in Manipur.