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Naga talks end, no breakthrough
Josy Joseph in New Delhi | January 23, 2003 22:30 IST
Historic talks between the Indian government and the Naga rebel group -- National Socialist Council of Nagalim (I-M) -- ended on Thursday without any major breakthrough.
At the end of three days of formal talks, the two sides just about managed to save the negotiation process from fizzling out by promising to continue it.
A joint statement issued by the two sides said: "There was agreement to continue the formal talks until a lasting settlement is reached." The two sides also "reaffirmed the need for a peaceful, violence free environment."
The one-page statement said the representatives of the Government of India and NSCN "are pleased with the progress" that was made during the visit of the NSCN (I-M) delegation led by chairman Isak Chisi Swu and general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah.
In the formal talks held over three days, from January 21 to 23, "a wide range of substantive issues put up by the NSCN in their proposals were discussed," the statement said. "NSCN raised issues relating to the distinct identity of Nagas and their stand on unification of Naga areas."
But the government representative "clarified that there has been no change in its stand on the scope of negotiations."
Muivah told reporters that there was no question of the Naga rebels giving up arms or discussing a special status for Nagaland under the Indian Constitution.
The rebel leader said they have already made their stand clear on "Greater Nagaland," which includes parts of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
Muivah said there is historical evidence to show they were never part of India, but refused to get into discussing details.
Swu said the rebels were happy with the talks so far and would continue the negotiations.
Government's negotiator, K Padmanabhaih, said the next round of talks would probably be held in the next couple of months. He expressed hope that the NSCN leaders would come back to India to hold talks.
The negotiations ended after two tense days when the talks almost broke down. In fact, this morning Padmanabhaih did not attend the talks, and the government had to take the assistance of Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga to pacify the agitated Naga rebels who were unimpressed by the government's tough stand.
The Naga leaders are leaving early Friday morning for the Netherlands, according to sources. They have already stamped their Indian passports with visa from the European nation.
On Thursday night, the NSCN leaders were expected to hold a small get together for the members of Naga Students Federation, Naga Mothers Association and some other well wishers.
According to sources, the Naga rebels have told the government negotiators that they would prefer Defence Minister George Fernandes to minister in-charge of Northeast, Arun Shourie, as a political negotiator.
More reports from Nagaland
Read about: Naga Ceasefire