The Assam government on Thursday offered to hold fresh peace talks with the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), saying the insurgency was impeding development and scaring outside investors.
"We appeal to the ULFA to come for talks for the greater interest of the state. The insurgency situation and extortions are sending wrong signals to outside investors," Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told journalists in Guwahati.
"People willing to invest in Assam pose the same question again and again - whether it was safe to do business here. And I must admit insurgency and extortions are still there."
The chief minister, however, said that despite the insurgency many people were doing flourishing business in Assam and many more were keen to invest in the state. "We have queries from people willing to invest in sectors like hotel, hospital, and tourism," Gogoi said.
"We want to speed up development and catch up with the rest of India."
This is the second offer for peace talks made by the state government in the past three weeks. The ULFA, fighting for an independent Assamese homeland since 1979, said direct talks could be possible only if New Delhi agrees to discuss their core demand of sovereignty or independence, and release five of their jailed leaders.
"We want the talks to be unconditional," the chief minister said.
Three rounds of preliminary talks between the government and the People's Consultative Group (PCG), a team of civil society leaders chosen by the ULFA, were deadlocked after the rebel group refused to give New Delhi a letter of commitment mentioning they would sit for direct talks once their jailed leaders were released.
The peace process broke down in September last year after New Delhi called off a six-week ceasefire and resumed military operations, blaming the ULFA for stepping up violence and extortions.
The ULFA was blamed for a string of attacks in January that killed about 80 people, 61 of them Hindi-speaking migrant workers in eastern Assam.