Bhiwadi (Rajasthan), July 13 (IANS): The dominant Naga separatist group has met senior government functionaries at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and is “inching towards accepting the Indian constitution”, according to a senior minister involved in the peace talks.
“Top leaders of the NSCN-IM (National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah) recently met Home Minister Shivraj Patil and top officials of the PMO,” Labour and Employment Minister Oscar Fernandes, a key interlocutor with the Naga rebels, told IANS here.
“Yes, I have been meeting them regularly and have had several rounds of successful discussions. I can say with some degree of confidence (that) they are inching towards accepting the Indian constitution,” Fernandes said.
Fernandes was in Bhiwadi, an industrial town about 80 km from New Delhi, to lay the foundation of an employees’ state insurance hospital.
Refusing to provide details of what transpired during his visit to Sweden in June to meet the Naga leadership, Fernandes said there was forward movement and discussions would take some time to achieve tangible results.
“They (NSCN-IM) have met important officials more recently. Lets give it some time.
“I must tell you that both the government and the Naga groups are discussing several technical issues, and the progress is quite satisfactory.”
In the last few rounds of talks, Indian government representatives have been trying to convince the NSCN-IM not to press for the unification of all Naga-inhabited areas in the northeast and their demand for sovereignty, considering the complexities and sensitivities.
Fernandes has been in the forefront of talks with NSCN-IM leaders Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah for years, having met them in several locations including Bangkok and Amsterdam.
The NSCN-IM and New Delhi entered into a ceasefire agreement in August
1997. The truce has been renewed regularly.
“We are negotiating and I don’t find any reason why the peace talks should not achieve success. Our government is serious about resolving the Naga issue,” Fernandes said.
The rebels and the government have held at least 60 rounds of peace talks in the past 11 years to end one of the longest running insurgencies in India. The campaign has claimed around 25,000 lives since 1947.
The NSCN (IM) has been demanding a ‘Greater Nagaland’ that would unite 1.2 million Nagas. But this is strongly opposed by neighbouring states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
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