Arunachal CM defines priorities

New Delhi, Nov. 6: Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Nabam Tuki has defined his priorities in case of a possible solution to the Naga problem and reserved the right to welfare for his state.

Fiercely protective of Arunachal Pradesh's territorial boundaries, Tuki said concern about Nagas living in the state is solely that of his government.

Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts adjoining Nagaland and Myanmar will get development councils to improve socio-economic indicators, but Tuki insisted that the step will be taken by the Arunachal Pradesh government and the Centre, not any other agency.

"They should think of their welfare; why should they demand for us? They should demand for Nagaland," Tuki told The Telegraph while speaking on a range of issues including protecting the Sino-Indian border. "We are doing everything for the development of youth across the state. There is a youth festival in Itanagar on Wednesday where youth affairs minister Jitendra Singh will come," Tuki said.

The Congress chief minister is one of the three vociferous opponents of the NSCN (I-M) demand for integration of Naga-inhabited areas. Tuki's statement yesterday not only takes on the NSCN but also legislators in Nagaland who have adopted at least four resolutions concerning welfare of Naga tribes in neighbouring states.

A few years ago, the Arunachal cabinet had resolved to create development councils in Tirap and Changlang districts (Longding is a new district). The final call on the matter will be taken by the ministry of home affairs. As rebels in Nagaland wield influence and demand inclusion of the districts into their map development councils in the area could change the dynamics. Similar is the case for other states with Naga population.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and his Manipur counterpart Okram Ibobi Singh are the other two stakeholders in any solution that involves Naga tribes living in these states. Tuki's hardened tenor may encourage Ibobi Singh to protect his turf and give in to hardline sentiments in the Meitei-majority Imphal valley that is against additional autonomy to the underdeveloped Naga Hills.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the Wancho, Nokte and Singpho tribes in Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts are part of the NSCN (I-M)'s political discourse on its now-rejected idea of "Nagalim".

Rebel factions of Nagaland are fighting for control over the mineral and oil-rich frontier districts, prompting the Centre to sanction about 2,000 more state police personnel specifically for the area.

Tuki said rebel fighting is still on and nearly 18 houses were torched in Longding while incidents were reported from Tirap also. "It will be good if the government of India reaches a permanent solution," he said. The state government's neighbouring Nagaland, however, is not party to the issue. "It is a Naga issue," he said.

With China in the north and Myanmar to the east, any activity, or the lack of it, in Arunachal Pradesh is of paramount importance to strategists on Raisina Hill. Tuki said defences were being added. "An extra division of the Indian army is coming up near Likabali and we are strengthening everywhere," he said.

Strategic roads and the trans-Arunachal highway are fast progressing, Tuki said, although he expressed dissatisfaction with the Border Roads Organisation (BRO). "I am not satisfied and I have told this to Prime Minister and the defence minister as well as to the BRO," Tuki said.