Mizoram and Assam ink pact on border hands-off

Assam and Mizoram inked an agreement tokeep their police and forest guards away from the troubled inter-state border as the first tangible step towards easing tension in the area and maintaining continuity of talks to end their decades-old territory dispute.

As decided by the Union home ministry, neutral forces will remain in charge of the disputed zone straddling the three Barak Valley districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi, and Mamit and Kolasib in Mizoram.

The ice-breaker in Aizawl, involving two cabinet ministers from either state, also saw Mizoram officially condoling the death of six Assam cops in the July 26 firing at Cachar district's Lailapur. In a reciprocal gesture, Assam revoked its July 29 advisory asking people from the state not to travel to Mizoram and telling those already there for work to “exercise utmost caution”.

Hundreds of trucks carrying essentials and medical supplies have been stranded along the NH 306 in the Barak Valley since the border flareup, triggering allegations by Mizoram of an unofficial economic blockade. Soon after the meet, the Mizoram CM’s office tweeted, “Govt. of Assam & Govt. of Mizoram successfully signed a joint statement today after deliberations at Aizawl.

Both governments agree to take forward the ministry of home affairs’ initiatives to remove prevailing tensions and find lasting solutions through discussions.”

The dialogue followed several telephonic discussions between Mizoram CM Zoramthanga and his Assam counterpart Himanta Biswa Sarma, both of whom subsequently declared their commitment to finding a solution that has eluded successive governments since the first round of talks in 1993. The joint declaration states that the two state governments “welcome and agree to take forward the initiatives taken by the ministry of home affairs, government of India and hon'ble chief ministers of Assam and Mizoram”.

“Both the states shall not send their respective forest and police forces for patrolling, domination, enforcement or for fresh deployment to any of the areas where confrontation and conflict have taken place between the police forces during recent times,” it says.

Assam border development minister Atul Bora, who led his state's delegation said, “This is the beginning. With meaningful dialogue, we can bring permanent peace, but it will take time.”

He blamed Congress, which was in government in both Assam and Mizoram for several terms, for the border dispute remaining unresolved.

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