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Delhi set for Naga touchdown
- ‘Historic date’ after five years of talks abroad

Jan. 8: After over five years of parleys on foreign shores, the Naga peace process moves to India tomorrow when the “collective leadership” of the NSCN (I-M) meets the “Central leadership” in New Delhi in what has been described as a “historic date” in the five-decade-old Naga movement.

Barring a last-minute change in schedule, NSCN (I-M) leaders Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah will meet Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani to launch the first round of political talks on “substantive issues”.

During their stay in India, the duo, scheduled to reach Delhi from Amsterdam, will also meet other leading politicians of the country. An e-mail sent to The Telegraph at 8.45 pm by Frans Welman of the Amsterdam-based Naga International Support Centre said the two have “left for India”.

The NSCN (I-M), regarded as the mother of all insurgent movements in the Northeast, had been waging a protracted battle for a “sovereign Nagaland” till it entered into a truce with Delhi in August 1997.

The proposed talks, which have fuelled expectations and apprehensions in equal measure, are expected to revolve around a list of modalities the NSCN (I-M) and the Prime Minister’s interlocutor K. Padmanabhaiah have chalked out during their numerous meetings abroad.

Sources said the NSCN (I-M) has submitted a list of proposals to the Centre on the arrangements to be made on five fronts — flag, citizenship, defence, trade and currency. “The substantive discussions is expected to revolve round these crucial issues,” they said.

Before their scheduled date with the Central leadership, the duo will be closeted in a meeting with members of the NSCN (I-M)’s steering committee — the outfit’s highest policy-making body — and council of kilonsers (ministers) to get “necessary” feedback.

A large delegation from Nagaland comprising church leaders, NGOs and human rights activists is camping in New Delhi to have a “consultative meeting” with the NSCN leadership. Leaders of the Opposition parties, too, have left for Delhi to meet them but the objective of their meeting with the militant leaders is not known.

“I will meet them tomorrow, but it will be just a courtesy interaction,” spokesman of the Nagaland unit of the BJP Ato Yepthomi said from New Delhi.

Ruling out any active involvement in the talks, former Nagaland home minister Neiphiu Rio said: “We are pro-settlement. So we will work with our people in that direction.”

In Nagland, chief minister S.C. Jamir said only Nagas could solve their political problem and that it would be “asking for too much for peace to come from Bangkok, Bangladesh, Delhi or elsewhere”. ( )

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