On a day Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised talks with Maoists if they abjure violence, Union Home Secretary Gopal Krishna Pillai made it clear that the rebels were not going to talk peace any time soon.
Pillai said the Maoists — who were aiming to overthrow the Indian state by 2050 — would only give a serious thought to peace when they feel the heat from the security forces.
And this, as Home Minister P Chidambaram has often emphasised, would be a "long haul".
Security forces, which had launched an operation against Naxals, had not even hit five per cent of the hardened militants due to limited capacity of the state police, said the home secretary. Sixty battalions of central forces — each has a sanctioned strength of 1,000 but effective operational strength of nearly 600 personnel — are spread across six states as part of the operation, to track down the Maoists' armed cadre of 10,000.
"The real armed cadres are yet to come out," he said at the Eminent Persons Lecture Series at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis on Friday.
The officer also hinted at the possibility of some ex-servicemen giving Maoists lessons in launching attacks and post-mortem — to avoid repeating mistakes.
“The analysis is as good as the ones by armed forces of any country,” he said.
The lecture came hours after the PM told the Lok Sabha that the government was determined to take firm action against them, but was ready to talk those ready to give up violence uncondit-ionally.
Pillai dismissed the recent Maoist peace offer as a ploy to regroup and build their own army since security forces had not been able to build pressure on them.
But the tide would turn in two to three years, he promised, articulating a seven to eight year time-frame for restoring complete administrative control in all Naxal-hit districts.
Of the 640 districts, Naxal violence was reported from 91 districts last year - four districts more than the previous year - in which over 900 civilians and security personnel were killed.
Naxals, who strengthen their hold by quietly taking advantages of the “administrative vacuum” in remote areas, however, wield influence in more than 220 districts.
"They have built up liberated areas and consolidated…. They have taken advantage of the perceived neglect," said Pillai, pointing that the well-oiled rebel machinery cost them nearly Rs. 1,400 crore, largely generated through extortion.