The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Naga talks run into hurdle

Kohima, April 18: The NSCN (I-M) has refused to resume “preparatory talks” with the Centre till it issues a clarification on chief interlocutor K. Padmanabhaiah’s statement that members of the outfit will be disarmed before any agreement is signed.

“The NSCN (I-M) leadership indicated as much during the last round of talks in Geneva on April 7,” a senior functionary of the militant group told The Telegraph here today.

Almost immediately after the “historic” New Delhi round of talks between the Centre and NSCN (I-M) leaders Th. Muivah and Isak Chisi Swu in January, an RSS publication had quoted Padmanabhaiah as saying that the Centre would ensure that members of the outfit were disarmed before signing an agreement.

The remark attributed to Padmanabhaiah angered the NSCN (I-M), which always had reservations about the former Union home secretary being the Centre’s interlocutor in the Naga peace talks. The outfit actually wanted a person with a “non-bureaucratic background” to represent the Prime Minister in the parleys.

The NSCN (I-M) functionary said there was no question of laying down arms before “hammering out a honourable solution to the Naga political problem”.

He quoted the outfit’s “collective leadership” as saying that Padmanabhaiah’s statement was a barrier the Centre would have to remove.

“Unless the government of India clarifies the statement by Padmanabhaiah, we cannot say when the next round of talks will be held. Arms and the organisation are inseparable as we are fighting for Naga sovereignty. This has been stated by our collective leadership,” he said.

On whether the NSCN (I-M) would ask the Centre to replace Padmanabhaiah, the insurgent leader said it was a possibility. “In this kind of atmosphere and the statement of our collective leadership, it is difficult for us to continue negotiations with him.”

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