Dimapur, April 26: The NSCN (I-M) has asserted that it will not return to the negotiating table until and unless the Centre replaces its chief interlocutor K. Padmanabhaiah with a political heavyweight.
It has also asked the Centre to state its position on the former bureaucrat’s remark that all members of the outfit will be “disarmed” before any pact is signed.
The outfit’s hardline posture of branding Padmanabhaiah as “politically untouchable” was unambiguously expressed by its leading spokesman, deputy kilonser V. Horam.
He said over phone that the outfit would not resume talks unless the Centre clarifies its “negotiating policy” in the wake of Padmanabhaiah’s “incendiary and irresponsible” remark made in an interview to the RSS mouthpiece Organiser a few months ago.
Saying that the Centre-NSCN (I-M) talks were held without any rider and moving ahead since 1997, Horam said the outfit was shocked and extremely disappointed that a person of Padmanabhaiah’s standing could issue such a reckless and damaging statement.
“Right from day one all knew that the talks would be unconditional, so why this talk of disarming us now' By making such a loose and utterly irresponsible remark, Padmanabhaiah has done much damage to the trust that was reposed in him and to the ambience of the talks,” Horam said.
But even before the interview controversy cropped up, the NSCN (I-M) had urged the Centre to depute a political heavyweight from the NDA government at the Centre as its negotiator with the group.
The NSCN (I-M) felt Padmanabhaiah, being from bureaucratic background, could take the talks this far and no further. The Centre’s non-commitment to the outfit’s demand annoyed the latter which resulted in an abrupt halt to the last round of talks in Amsterdam.
The former bureaucrat, in the eye of storm, had told The Telegraph on April 22 that the talks were “smooth” and that steps to take it forward would be worked out soon.
Although Padmanabhaiah clarified that he was misquoted and that the interviewer had made an error in translating the script of the said interview, the NSCN (I-M) has so far refused to buy the explanation.