Oct 10, 2006

Nagalim: Talks in Progress in Amsterdam

Aiming to give fresh impetus to the ongoing Naga peace process, the government will hold talks with top leadership of the NSCN(IM) in Amsterdam for three days .

New Delhi, Oct 09: Aiming to give fresh impetus to the ongoing Naga peace process, the government will hold talks with top leadership of the NSCN(IM) in Amsterdam for three days Begining October 17, amid indication that the rebels may toughen their stand on unification of Naga-inhabited areas.

A group of ministers, headed by Union Minister Oscar Fernandes, will hold talks with the NSCN(IM) representatives led by chairman Isaac Chisi Swu and general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and expected to discuss all "substantive" issues for a lasting solution to the country's oldest insurgency problem, sources said.

The meeting will review the progress made ever since the rebels submitted a 20-point "charter of demands" to the government.

In its "charter of demands", the 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.

The Naga side is expected to insist on commitment from the Centre to its key demand of unification of Naga-inhabited areas to please its constituencies in Nagaland, sources said.

However, the rebel group's key demand or "Greater Nagalim" has been strongly opposed by Nagaland's neighbouring states - Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.

In the last round of talks held in Bangkok, both sides are understood to have discussed the limits of flexibility within the constitution and whether a "sub-national constitution" could be accommodated within it.

This has become a thorny issue as the NSCN(IM) has proposed negotiating a federal relationship with the country, sources said.

The rebels have suggested that the relationship between India and the Nagas should be defined by a mutually agreed settlement incorporated in the constitution as well as in what it calls a "Naga constitution".

The government negotiators have argued that the country's constitution is flexible enough to take care of regional aspirations and diversities. It allows for "asymmetrical federalism" -- different states and regions can relate to the Centre differently. For example, it recognises the constitution of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, they said.

The Bangkok meeting, held on July 29-31, also agreed to extend the ongoing ceasefire by one year. 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 rebels' insistence and extended by another six months in February before further extending for a year in July 31.

In a joint communique issued immediately after three-day parleys, the both sides said "substantive" issues were discussed and the two sides expressed satisfaction over the progress made in the talks. They had also agreed to "move expeditiously with the discussions on substantive issues" to reach an early settlement.

Apart from Fernades, interlocutor for Naga talks K Padmanabhaiah and two other members of the GoM - Union Minister of State for Home S Reghupathy and Minister of State at the PMO Prithviraj Chavan - will take part in the talks.