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Centre sees NSCN talks delay

Imphal, Dec. 9: The Centre today all but dashed hopes of any early outcome of the talks with NSCN (Isak-Muivah), saying it had not made “much progress” as the issues involved were “very complex” and the ground was “shaky.”

The joint secretary in-charge of the Northeast in the Union home ministry, Shambhu Singh, described the talks with the NSCN (I-M) as a “tough game” while expressing satisfaction with the negotiations with Ulfa.

Singh, leading a central team that visited Moreh on Saturday, was here to take stock of the border dispute with Myanmar at Moreh sector of the international border, 109km south of Imphal.

“We haven’t moved much,” Singh told The Telegraph here on the talks with the NSCN (I-M). “The group has given up the demand for sovereignty. It has also given up the Naga integration demand for the time being. They have submitted demands, which we are yet to respond to because these involve states like Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh,” he said.

“There are Nagas living in these states and, therefore, they want something for them also,” he said without elaborating. He said the list of demands, which were negotiable, was submitted before the Centre only in July 2011.

“The real negotiation started after that. Demands that had been raised before were not negotiable. So finding a solution to such a complex issue, which is more than 60 years old, is not easy. We are on shaky ground and I can’t tell you how things will shape up in the end,” the joint secretary said.

Talks between the two sides have been on for more than 16 years both within and outside the country.

He also said the government had realised that a peace deal with the NSCN (I-M) would not end the problems of the Nagas. “There is no guarantee that an agreement clinched with the NSCN (I-M) will be accepted by the entire people in Nagaland. Ignoring voices of other Nagas groups will lead to nowhere and will be more problematic.”

Singh corroborated a claim made by Ulfa that its negotiation with the Centre was at the final stage and it would not take long for an agreement to be reached. “As far as talks with Ulfa is concerned, we are satisfied and happy. Things are moving in the right direction and it should not take long before arriving at a solution. We are close to a certain kind of a settlement.”

He did not reveal details of the likely points of agreement, but said they would centre around protection of the identity of the Assamese people.

“They have submitted a set of demands, which I can’t disclose. Ulfa was founded on perceived threat to the identity of the Assamese. The demands, naturally, centre around protection of their identity,” he said.

He parried a question on likely changes in the socio-economic and political fronts in Assam as a fallout of a settlement with Ulfa. The joint secretary, however, claimed that changes were already taking place in Assam. “The dividends of peace are visible in Assam today. There are lots of development activities without any disturbance and hindrances,” he said.