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Fernandes to talk with Naga rebels in Thailand

Union Minister is travelling to Thailand to hold talks with the insurgents to extend the fragile, 8-year truce.

india Updated: Jan 13, 2006 22:47 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

With a ceasefire between Naga rebels and security forces expiring this month, Union Minister Oscar Fernandes is travelling to Thailand to hold talks with the insurgents in the hope of extending the fragile, eight-year truce.

"The ceasefire ends on January 31. So my talks have to be before that. I will be going to Bangkok after January 26 for the talks," Fernandes, who heads a three-member team of ministers to negotiate with the Naga rebels, said on Friday.

"Nobody wants violence. There must be progress in negotiations. But peace also cannot be achieved overnight and the day you call off the ceasefire, there will be no holds barred and that won't be good," said Fernandes, who is Minister of State for Overseas Indian Affairs.

"We sincerely hope the ceasefire is extended," he said, referring to the peace process with the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM).

Though the NSCN-IM has traditionally extended its truce with the Government for a period of 12 months at a time, it agreed to an extension of only six months last year as a tactic to pressure New Delhi to accept its demands.

Fernandes indicated that the next round of talks would revolve around the rebels' demand for unification of all Naga-inhabited areas in the northeast, a proposal that has been strongly opposed by the governments of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

"What the Naga leaders wanted was that the talks be taken up at the political level," Fernandes said. While he was willing to discuss all issues, for the Naga rebels it was primarily the "territorial issue", he added.

"But we can't force anything on the states. There has to be a due process and other states will also have to be involved," he said, responding to a question on the demand for creating a "greater Nagaland".

Besides Fernandes, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan, and Minister of State for Home Affairs S Reghupathy are members of the three-member negotiating team.

Fernandes said former Home Secretary K Padmanabhaiah would continue to be the Government's pointman for the Naga peace process.

The Government and the Naga rebels entered a ceasefire in August 1997. The last round of two-day peace talks ended in the Thai capital Bangkok on December 17.

First Published: Jan 13, 2006 20:04 IST