Govt, Naga rebels set to hold talks

NEW DELHI: The Indian government will hold talks with Nagaland separatists to strike a peace deal, a rebel Naga leader said today.

Leaders of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), which is fighting for the expansion of the mountainous Nagaland state in India’s remote northeast into a “Greater Nagaland”, arrived in the Indian capital New Delhi yesterday from self-imposed exile in The Netherlands.

Guerrilla leaders Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah said they were invited by the Indian government to hold talks and were optimistic that several key demands would be accepted.

“It is a pretty long time that we have been talking to the government of India. In more than 10 years, they could not solve the problem so they are responsible for that,” said Thuingaleng Muivah.

The rebel group’s demand for a “Greater Nagaland” that would unite 1.2 million

Nagas has been strongly opposed by

the surrounding neighbouring states of

Assam, Manipur and Arunachal

Pradesh. Muivah said the group would not withdraw the demand.

“No, sovereignty cannot be withdrawn because sovereignty is with the people... We have been told that the government of India has arranged some counter-proposals from their side. I don’t know how far that is practicable or acceptable to us,” Thuingaleng Muivah said.

Meanwhile, India’s Home Secretary GK Pillai yesterday said demands for sovereignty or integration of Naga rebel groups were not feasible.