Indian govt invites ULFA for talks

Agence France Presse

Guwahati, May 28:

India has formally invited an influential separatist group in the northeastern state of Assam for peace talks aimed at ending more than 25 years of insurgency in the region, a government

official said today. The invitation comes after New Delhi this week signed a one-year ceasefire pact with another northeastern rebel group, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB). A formal letter inviting representatives of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) for talks had been sent yesterday, the official said. “The letter signed

by India’s National Security Adviser MK Narayanan was addressed to ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa,” the home official told AFP by telephone requesting anonymity. The ULFA has been fighting for an independent homeland in Assam since 1979 and is considered one of the most organised rebel armies in the northeast. Its strength is estimated to be about 3,000 guerrilla fighters.

The letter from Narayanan was handed over to noted Assamese writer Indira Goswami, sought by the ULFA as mediator with New Delhi. Goswami did not disclose the contents of the letter though she described it as “very encouraging and a positive move forward”. “I had e-mailed the letter to the ULFA chairman and hope they respond positively to the offer,” she said. Narayanan’s letter was in response to a message from the ULFA to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently offering talks if New Delhi was willing to discuss their main demand for “sovereignty” or independence. “We are hopeful of a breakthrough. From our side we are ready to extend whatever is required to facilitate holding of negotiations with the ULFA,” Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said.