By Syed Zarir Hussain, Guwahati:
New Delhi and a powerful separatist group in Nagaland have agreed to hold monthly peace talks aimed at ending six decades of bloodshed in the northeastern state, a rebel leader Friday said.
The next round of talks between government peace negotiators and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), led by guerrilla leaders Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah, is scheduled for June 22 at Amsterdam.
"We have reached an understanding to hold talks with the government, at least once in a month, to speed up the peace process and find a permanent solution to our problem," R.H. Raising, a senior NSCN-IM leader, told IANS by telephone from Dimapur, Nagaland's commercial hub
"The next round of talks on June 22 would discuss several key issues, including our main demand for integration."
The NSCN-IM have been struggling for nearly six decades to create a "Greater Nagaland" by slicing off parts of three neighbouring states to add to the mountainous Nagaland state.
The NSCN-IM and New Delhi entered into a ceasefire in August 1997 which has been renewed regularly. The latest truce expires July 31.
The demand for a "Greater Nagaland" that would unite 1.2 million Nagas has been strongly opposed by the surrounding states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
The rebels and the government have held at least 50 rounds of peace talks in the past nine years to end one of South Asia's longest running insurgencies that have claimed around 25,000 lives since 1947.
The top rebel leadership has been living in self-imposed exile for the past 38 years.