The NSCN-IM (National Socialist Council of Nagaland- Isak-Muivah) has declared that no oil or natural gas exploration in Naga territories will be condoned until a mutually respectful agreement between the Nagas and the Government of India is established . This announcement comes as oil companies are preparing to start oil exploration in Nagaland for the first time in nearly thirty years.
They stated that since Nagaland was created in 1963, the Indian Government has been eyeing its mineral wealth. This is due to the fact that Nagaland is blessed with a variety of mineral deposits, especially petroleum. However, the unresolved political issue between them has hindered these plans for over 25 years.
Two decades ago, the NSCN released a standing order that stated no mineral wealth can be explored until a political settlement is made. This order is still valid today. Therefore, any justification to extract resources to fund development cannot take away the Naga people’s inalienable rights over their land.
The organization stated, “The Government of India is showing no sincerity in respecting the political rights of the Naga people, as stated in the Framework Agreement of 2015. Despite the 600 million tonnes of oil and natural gas reserves in Nagaland, the Indian Government is not demonstrating the same degree of political commitment in the ongoing Indo-Naga political talks as it does in regards to the mineral wealth. With this history of colonialism, the NSCN holds a resolute stand that no exploration of oil and natural gas in Naga territories shall be allowed until a honourable political settlement is reached between Nagas and the Indian Government. This is a stance they will not back down from, as they refuse to be a laughing stock before the world.”
Oil India Limited (OIL) intends to begin exploration of Nagaland when the weather is suitable. To this end, the company is planning to carry out a 3D seismic survey of a 4,000-square-kilometer area in Upper Assam.
On Monday, while talking to the media personalities, Dr. Ranjit Rath, chairman and managing director of OIL said, “We have already started exploration in Mizoram. Further study is going on to further explore. In Tripura we have assets and exploration is done. In the Northern bank of Brahmaputra River Pathshala and Mangaldoi are covered under Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) bidding. We have done seismic data acquisition.”
He further asserted, “We are carrying out exploration in Arunachal Pradesh, we have planned extensive drilling and production is going on. In Nagaland till the time there was a dispute between Assam and Nagaland that was getting sorted out. There is a lot of discussion going on. We have 3000 sq km of exploration acreage in Nagaland.”
Rath also mentioned that, “Once there is a climate of sorted out issues we will immediately have started exploration. We strongly believe that both the Assam shelf where we have the main producing area, and the Assam- Arakan fold belt which is in the South East of Assam shelf covering Nagaland has enough potential.”
The Chief Ministers of Assam and Nagaland recently held talks to settle the border dispute between their states, and agreed to explore the possibility of utilizing the oil reserves in the disputed areas for economic benefit. Both parties have agreed in-principle to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on oil exploration in the contested regions in order to extract the oil and split the resulting royalties between the two states.
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