Home Minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday said the government would be ready to talk to Maoist guerrillas if they called a halt to their violence.
"If you abjure violence, that is if you call a halt to violence, we are not asking you do anything more, we are prepared to talk to you on any (subject)," the minister told reporters after a meeting of top officials of West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar in Kolkata.
Chidambaram said that since such an offer had been spurned earlier, the government was obliged to continue with its anti-Maoist operations. "As long as the Naxals indulge in violence, these operations will continue."
Taking part in the meeting to discuss the Maoist threat were the chief ministers of West Bengal and Orissa, the two deputy chief ministers of Jharkhand and top officials of all four states.
Chidamabaram said the anti-Maoist crackdown in all these states had seen "slow but steady" progress, and cited the arrests of several key leaders of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist to back his assertion.
"And contrary to what sections of the media and NGOs propagated a few months ago that there would be a massive carnage, no such thing has happened. We have made it very clear that the purpose of these operations is not to kill anyone.
"These are our own people, we care for them, we care for their lives. The object is to re-establish civil administration in areas now dominated by Naxalites. I think progress will be slow but steady," he said.
He added: "You cannot measure the progress of the operation like a scoreboard in a cricket match. Progress is steady and slow. We will continue to make progress. In fact considerable progress has been made..."
The minister admitted that there were inadequacies in the security offensive but added that these would be overcome.