Giving a fresh impetus to the ongoing peace process, the Government and National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Issac-Muivah) on Monday agreed to extend the ceasefire in Nagaland by another year and promised to move 'expeditiously' discussing all 'substantive' issues for a lasting solution to the country's oldest insurgency problem.
"Both the sides have agreed to extend the ceasefire for another year. It is a historical moment for both the Government and the NSCN(IM)," chief government negotiator and Union Minister Oscar Fernandes told PTI in Bangkok.
The agreement for the ceasefire was signed by interlocutor for the Naga talks K Padmanabhiah and NSCN (IM) General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah.
In a joint communiqué issued immediately after the three -day parleys, the two sides said that given the need to 'move expeditiously with the discussions on substantive issues' to reach an early settlement, it was agreed to extend the ceasefire for one year with effect from August 1, 2006.'
'With respect to the ceasefire, both sides agreed to strengthen the ceasefire monitoring mechanism. It was also agreed that any proposal in this regard to be tabled by the NSCN (IM) would be decided upon promptly,' it said.
The statement also said that substantive issues were discussed and that the two sides had expressed satisfaction over the progress made in the talks. During the parleys, the group of ministers headed by Fernandes had promised to take up all 'relevant' issues raised by the rebels with the government.
The NSCN-IM and security forces in Nagaland have been observing a truce since August 1997. The truce has been extended every 12 months since then except last year when it was renewed for just six months at the insistence of the rebels and further extended by another six months in February.
The current spell of the ceasefire ended on Monday.
NSCN (IM) General Secretary Muivah said: "We had a hard time to (reach) a conclusion. But anyway we have extended the ceasefire." He said the government and his group had agreed to discuss a framework for considering their larger demands, which he described as 'an important step.'
As part of the framework, both sides are understood to have agreed to jointly analyse the Indian Constitution to decide which parts of it will apply with modifications to the Nagas, sources said.
This is, however, proposed to be done only after agreeing to the basic principles underlying the framework, they said. In its 'charter of demands,' the banned NSCN-IM has sought unification of all Naga-inhabited areas of the northeast, separate representation at the UN, and greater rights over natural resources, finance, defence and policing.