//Crucial Naga peace talks begin in Amsterdam

Crucial Naga peace talks begin in Amsterdam

Indo-Asian News Service
Guwahati, December 4, 2006

Central government peace negotiators and leaders of a frontline tribal separatist group of Nagaland begin fresh talks in Amsterdam on Monday to help save a nine-year ceasefire from breaking down.

The government team in the two-day talks is being led by Union Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes and New Delhi's main peace interlocutor K Padmanabhaiah, while guerrilla leader Thuingaleng Muivah is heading the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), the main rebel group in Nagaland.

"The agenda for the talks would revolve around our main demand for a special federal relationship between India and Nagalim (Greater Nagaland) that allows us self-governance," senior NSCN-IM leader RH Raising said.

The NSCN-IM and New Delhi entered into a ceasefire in August 1997, which has been renewed regularly. The present ceasefire expires in June 2007. The rebel leadership during talks in October proposed "a special federal arrangement" although the negotiations ended inconclusively.

The rebels are seeking a separate Naga constitution under the special federal relationship. Talks in recent months have run into rough weather with the NSCN-IM blaming New Delhi for not having a clear-cut plan to resolve the more than six-decade old problem.

"Simply holding talks and delaying the peace process would yield no results. In the long run, such delaying tactics would boomerang," said another rebel leader.

The NSCN-IM has been demanding the creation of a Greater Nagaland by slicing off parts of three neighbouring states to unite 1.2 million Nagas. The demand is strongly opposed by the states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

New Delhi and the NSCN-IM have held more than 50 rounds of peace talks in the past nine years to end one of South Asia's longest-running insurgencies that has claimed around 25,000 lives since the country's independence in 1947.