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Advani against Naga talks abroad

Nov. 15: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani today made a case for holding all future rounds of talks with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) in India instead of a foreign country.

“Our government has held talks with the Naga leadership abroad, but I do not like the idea of holding discussions in a foreign country. They should come to India for talks. I hope they will agree to this,” he said before addressing a public function in Ranchi on the second Foundation Day of Jharkhand.

On the forthcoming Assembly elections in Nagaland, Advani said he was confident that the process would be free and fair. The state will go to the hustings along with Tripura and Meghalaya early next year.

The Centre yesterday began the process of selecting possible dates for the eagerly anticipated talks with the NSCN(I-M). The negotiations are most likely to be held in New Delhi next month.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee last night held a meeting with senior officials of the Union home ministry to take stock of the progress of the Naga peace process.

Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga, one of the Centre’s interlocutors in the peace talks, told The Telegraph in Silchar today that the next round of talks will be held in New Delhi “sometime in December”.

Zoramthanga, an insurgent leader-turned-politician, had met the NSCN (I-M) leadership in Bangkok and Amsterdam.

“The next round of peace talks will be political in nature and mark a significant advancement in the direction of restoring peace in Nagaland,” the chief minister said.

On the likelihood of a breakthrough in the six-year-long negotiations, Zoramthanga said it appeared possible because it was for the first time that NSCN (I-M) general secretary Th. Muivah and chairman Isak Chisi Swu had agreed to return to India for talks to carry the peace process forward.

The Mizo leader admitted to being happy to be a medium between the Centre and the NSCN(I-M) leadership, but was reluctant to discuss the extent of his role in the negotiations.

“I want peace in the whole of the Northeast and will be glad to play a role in ending the impasse in Nagaland,” the Mizo leader said.

Zoramthanga said the Centre’s “main men” in the peace talks — former Union home secretary K. Padmanabhaiah and Intelligence Bureau chief K.P. Singh — had “worked very hard to narrow the gap between perceptions of the two sides”.

The decks have already been cleared for the arrival of the two NSCN (I-M) leaders in India with the criminal cases pending against them being withdrawn.

It was in June that the district magistrate of Dimapur withdrew the non-bailable arrest warrants against Muivah. These warrants had been issued in February 2000.

The NSCN (I-M) has submitted to the Centre a 30-point list of draft proposals on “substantive issues”, including the “citizenship of the Naga people” and currency.

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