Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi says his government is ready to release five jailed separatist leaders of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) the moment it receives New Delhi's nod.
"We are ready to release ULFA leaders from jail once we get the signal from the central government," the chief minister said.
The main issue now blocking the start of formal face-to-face talks between the ULFA leadership and Indian government negotiators is the rebels' demand for release of five of their jailed leaders.
The ULFA over the weekend announced halting its guerrilla campaign in the resource-rich state of Assam.
It was the first time that ULFA, which is fighting for an independent Assamese homeland, has announced a truce since its formation in 1979. The declaration came after New Delhi announced suspending Army operations against the group for 10 days, beginning Aug 14.
Gogoi said depending on the progress made in the talks between the People's Consultative Group (PCG), appointed by the ULFA to begin exploratory talks, and the central government, the term of the suspension of military operations against the separatist group could be increased.
"The Assam government would help in all possible ways to facilitate talks and shall clear any hurdles that might come in the way of holding a direct dialogue," Gogoi said.
"We really don't know details of the talks going on between the ULFA representatives and the government of India," the chief minister said.
The ULFA wants direct talks with the Indian government and had in October last year nominated the 11-member PCG comprising civil society leaders.
"I personally hope the stage for holding direct talks with the ULFA leadership has brightened."
Noted Assamese writer and PCG leader Indira Goswami is meeting India's National Security Adviser MK Narayanan and Home Secretary VK Duggal in New Delhi on Tuesday to work out modalities for direct talks.
"We have already requested the government to release the jailed ULFA leaders and we hope to get a positive response soon," Goswami said.
The five jailed ULFA leaders—Pradip Gogoi, Bhimkanta Buragohain, Pranati Deka, Mithingia Daimary and Ramu Mech—are currently lodged at the high-security central prison in Assam's main city of Guwahati.
ULFA says the outfit was unable to chalk out strategies for formal talks without their five central committee leaders and was therefore seeking their release from jail.
Home Minister Shivraj Patil during the last round of talks with the PCG on June 22 said New Delhi could consider their release from jail.