Nagalim: Dutch Negotiator Appointed for Talks
The Indian government has appointed a Dutch negotiator to help save a fragile eight-year-old ceasefire with a powerful tribal separatist group in Nagaland from breaking down, a rebel leader said Saturday.
Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Oscar Fernandes and leaders of the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) formally nominated Michael C. van Walt van Praag from the Netherlands as a 'third party mediator' in Bangkok last week.
"The talks in Bangkok were almost on the verge of collapse with the Indian government failing to respond positively to our demands," senior NSCN-IM leader Kraibo Chawang said.
"Praag's intervention helped in saving the peace process from breaking down," Chawang told IANS.
The NSCN-IM and New Delhi entered into a ceasefire in August
1997 with the ongoing truce expiring on Jan 31 next year.
The last round of two-day peace talks ended in the Thai capital Bangkok Dec 17.
The Dutch rights campaigner attended a lunch hosted by Fernandes in Bangkok on the last day of the talks where senior NSCN-IM leaders were also present.
"Praag would be playing the role of a facilitator or a peace broker and he is expected to submit a list of independent proposals to resolve the problem in fresh talks next month," Chawang said.
"The proposals may not be acceptable to us or to the Indian government, but his impartial role, we believe could bring in positive results and also help patching up differences between our group and New Delhi."
Praag is currently the executive president of a Hague-based non-governmental organisation called Kreddha, which works for the prevention and resolution of violent conflicts within existing states.
"Praag has been unofficially assisting the two sides (NSCN-IM and New Delhi) in the talks since 2001 and only now his role as a negotiator has been formalized," the rebel leader said. "He had visited Nagaland twice before and he is a friend of both the Naga people and the Indian government."
An internationally acclaimed rights campaigner, Praag was earlier general secretary of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO).
The UNPO claims the support of over 150 million people in more than 60 member countries and works for protecting the human rights of nations, peoples and minorities not represented in international forums such as the United Nations.
The NSCN-IM and New Delhi had held at least 50 rounds of peace talks to end a long- running insurgency that has claimed an estimated 25,000 lives since 1947.