//Talks with Naga rebels

Talks with Naga rebels

Giving a push to the Naga peace process, a group of ministers(GoM) has concluded “very fruitful” talks here with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) leadership on key issues raised by the rebels, including autonomy for Nagaland.

“This round of talks were part of the ongoing peace process. The talks were quite good and very fruitful,” Union minister Oscar Fernandes said after three days of talks with Naga rebel leaders along with Union minister of state for home S Reghupathy and minister of state at the Prime Minister’s Office, Prithviraj Chouhan. Mr Fernandes, Mr Reghupathy and Mr Chouhan are members of the GoM constituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to look into the Naga peace process.

Asked whether NSCN-IM’s 30-point Charter of Demands that included autonomy had figured in the talks, Mr Fernandes said, “We discussed all relevant issues. But we cannot have talks on a piecemeal basis.”

“We discussed the ongoing ceasefire in Nagaland. But the issue of extension (of the truce beyond July 31) was not taken up in the meeting,” he said. Mr Fernandes said another round of talks would be held before July 31, but it was premature to talk about the extension at present.

Sources said the 30-point Charter of Demands submitted by the NSCN-IM, including a greater say in the utilisation of Nagaland’s natural resources, a separate constitution, separate flag and control in areas like finance, defence and policing, had figured in the discussions.

The NSCN-IM wants “some kind of concession” from the Centre on its demands to “please domestic constituencies” that have become desperate due to delays in the peace process. However, the Centre’s response to this was not known, sources said.

The issue of unification of Naga inhabited areas in the northeast was also raised by the rebels. The Naga outfit has made a case for a “federal relationship” with the Indian Union.

It has argued that the nature of this relationship should be incorporated in the country’s Constitution as well as the separate one for Nagaland. If it is granted, this alone can ensure a lasting settlement to the nation’s oldest insurgency problem, sources said.

The government’s negotiators are believed to have put forward the Centre’s view on the extent of flexibility under the Constitution that could take care of regional diversities and aspirations, sources said.

The interlocutor for the Naga talks, K Padmanabhiah, was also present at the meeting, while the NSCN-IM was represented by chairman Isak Chishi Swu and general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah.The Centre began talks with the NSCN-IM in 1997 after the two sides agreed to a ceasefire.