Crucial talks between government, Naga separatists in AmsterdamDecember 4th, 2008 - 11:46 am ICT by IANS
Dimapur (Nagaland), Dec 4 (IANS) Indian negotiators are beginning fresh peace talks in Amsterdam with a tribal separatist group from Nagaland to save a 10-year-old ceasefire from breaking down, an official said Thursday. A home ministry official said union minister Oscar Fernandes and New Delhi’s chief peace negotiator K. Padmanabhaiah would be holding talks with top leaders of the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) in the Dutch capital Sunday. The talks are expected to continue for three days.
The NSCN-IM, led by guerrilla leaders Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah, had entered into a ceasefire with the Indian government in August 1997. The NSCN-IM would be represented in the talks by Muivah, Swu, V.S. Atem, R. Raising, Q. Tuccu, and Somba Chang.
The two sides have since 1997 held at least 50 rounds of peace talks aimed at ending one of South Asia’s longest running insurgencies that has claimed an estimated 25,000 lives since India attained independence in 1947.
“This is going to be a very crucial round of talks as from our side we have already submitted a list of our demands,” a NSCN-IM leader told IANS on condition of anonymity.
The NSCN-IM is one of the oldest and most powerful of about 30 rebel groups in India’s northeast and wants to create a ‘Greater Nagaland’ by slicing off parts of neighbouring states that have Naga tribal populations. The three regional governments of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh have already rejected NSCN-IM’s demand for unification of Naga-dominated areas.
New Delhi too had earlier rejected demands for unification of all Naga inhabited areas. The NSCN-IM had threatened to pull out of the ceasefire if the government negotiators fail to come up with a solution.
“There is no point in an annual ritual of just extending the ceasefire if the government of India does not have a plan for evolving a mutually acceptable solution,” the NSCN-IM leader said.
“The people of Nagaland are getting restive with a decade gone without any tangible results,” he added.
“This would be a very crucial round of talks and could determine which way the peace process moves from here on,” another rebel leader said.
NSCN leader Muivah had recently said New Delhi’s delay in finding a solution was taxing their patience and this could be the last ceasefire unless there was a settlement.
Community leaders and tribal chiefs are worried that Nagaland might again witness a cycle of violence if the NSCN-IM decides to pull out of the peace talks.
“It would be a nail in the coffin if the peace talks breakdown at this stage. All the Nagas are hoping for a permanent solution and an end to bloodshed and killings,” said T. Ao, a church leader.