Naga rebels sound warning to New Delhi as talks falter
GUWAHATI: Separatist rebels from northeastern Nagaland warned yesterday, ahead of another round of talks with the Indian government in Thailand, that they will let a ceasefire lapse unless they clinch concessions.
"We have made our point very clearly that unless the government agrees to meet our demands within a stipulated time frame, there is no point in simply extending the ceasefire," a rebel leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said by phone from Bangkok.
Talks between New Delhi and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) were extended into an unscheduled third day yesterday after weekend talks in Bangkok failed to break the impasse The talks are aimed at saving a nine-year-old ceasefire which expires today.
Federal minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, Oscar Fernandes, and New Delhi’s chief peace negotiator K. Padmanabhaiah are leading the government in the talks with the NSCN leaders, which ended in stalemate on Sunday. "We had a very serious discussion today but there is no progress as yet. No commemts for today and again we are meeting tomorrow (Monday)," NSCN general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah told reporters in Bangkok at the end of Sunday’s session.
The NSCN, one of the oldest and most powerful of about 30 rebel groups in India’s northeast, wants to create a "Greater Nagaland" by slicing off parts of three neighbouring states which have Naga populations to unite around 1.2 million Nagas. The governments of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh states have already rejected the demand for unification of Naga-dominated areas.
A team of the apex tribal council of the Nagas, the Naga Hoho, which has long been brokering peace between rival rebel factions, is in Bangkok to assist in the talks. Muivah said yesterday’s decision will be taken in consultation with the Hoho leaders. The NSCN, led by guerrilla leaders Muivah and Isak Chishi Swu who have lived in self-imposed exile mainly in Asia, agreed to a ceasefire with the Indian government in 1997.