Naga rebels hold talks on truce extension
A powerful separatist rebel group involved in a 60-year-old insurgency in India's northeastern Nagaland state began talks on Friday with senior government officials to extend a ceasefire agreement.
A seven-member delegation of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Issac-Muivah) (NSCN-IM) and a group of Indian officials in New Delhi met to discuss prolonging the ceasefire due to expire on July 31.
"Apart from extension of ceasefire we want a firm commitment from the government of India on our demands during this round of talks," Tongmeth Wangnao Konyak, spokesman of the Naga rebels, group told Reuters by phone.
The NSCN-IM agreed to a ceasefire in August 1997 and launched a peace process to bring an end to the country's longest-running insurgency, which has killed about 20,000 people since 1947.
The rebel group has participated in several rounds of talks with Indian officials since the start of the ceasefire.
"Yes talks started this evening in New Delhi and it will continue till tomorrow," Rh. Raising, a senior Naga rebel leader, told Reuters by phone from Nagaland.
But talks between the two sides have not made progress over the rebels' main demand of unification and eventual independence of Naga-dominated areas in northeast India, which is being opposed by other ethnic groups in the region.
"We will not compromise on our demand for a single Naga homeland. There can't be any solution without it," Konyak said.
Nagaland is a mainly Christian state of two million people on India's far eastern border with Myanmar.
The NSCN -- which split into two factions in the late 1980s -- has been fighting for the freedom of millions of Naga tribespeople living in northeast India and neighbouring Myanmar since 1947.
Security analysts say peace with the Nagas is crucial to a broader peace in the northeast -- seven states connected to the rest of India by a thin strip of land and home to dozens of insurgent groups.